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State has $4.8 billion in unclaimed money: Some of it may be yours

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Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 10:00 pm

What do convicted killer Wesley Shermantine, Congressman Richard Pombo and comedian Jerry Seinfeld all have in common? They all have money waiting for them in the state's coffers.

California State Controller Steve Westly's office has about $4.8 billion in unclaimed money. This week, Westly delivered more than $14,000 to the San Francisco Symphony in a public drive to reduce the 7.6 million unclaimed items. A Web site run by his office reveals some interesting money news for local residents and businesses:

• Pombo, R-Tracy, has nearly $1,200 waiting for him from Ford Motor's abandoned property unit.

• The City of Lodi has three unclaimed pieces of property, including $50 in vendor payments from Thrifty Corp. and two payments of $30 and $111.30 from a life insurance company.

• Lodi High School's speech team has $25 waiting, in the form of a draft from Stockton Savings Bank.

• And Lodi City Councilman John Beckman has $59.40 waiting for him from an insurance refund.

"Hot dog! Well, send me the check," Beckman said when told of the money waiting for him Wednesday.

Much of the money comes from bank accounts that have had no activity in three years. Under state law, the property is then turned over to the Controller's Office. The Web site does not include real estate but does list bank accounts, stocks, uncashed checks, insurance policies, royalty payments and trust funds.

Before transferring the money to the State Controller, businesses and financial institutions must send a notice to the owner's last known address. But that could be part of the reason so much money goes unclaimed - people move and sometimes addresses are listed incorrectly.

That may be what happened to Beckman, who no longer lives at the Eaton Drive listed on the Web site. He even checked the site several months ago and found nothing listed for his name, but now he's ready to claim his money.

How to look for money

• Go online to http://www.searchthevault.com For the Spanish version of the site, to http://www.encuentresudinero.com
• Once on the site, click on the piggy bank to begin searching. Enter a last or business name.
• To narrow search results, enter a first initial, first name or city.
• Follow the instructions to claim property. Most claims require a current photo identification, a Social Security card or tax identification number, verification of the current address and any specific documents relating to the property.
• There is no deadline for claiming property. Once a claim is filed, it can take up to 180 days to be processed. Interest is not paid on property for the time it was in the Controller's Office.
• To search for property in other states, go to http://www.unclaimed.org
- News-Sentinel staff

"It's rare that the government gives me money. Usually I have to give them money," he said.

Of course, there are a few things he'll have to do before getting the money, such as filling out claim forms and checking with his accountant to see if it will affect his taxes.

Others may have to also prove they really are the business listed on the site. For instance, a Lodi winery has a little more than $50 waiting for it, and the address is listed only as "ZZ" in Lodi. Lodi Forklift Service on South Cherokee Lane has $221.86 waiting, but the city is listed as "Lode," rather than Lodi. A phone number for the business could not be located.

"Lockeford Mobile Home Sale" has $902.48 waiting, though no address is reported. Meanwhile, Tokay High School has $162.72 waiting from Coca-Cola, though it's listed as "Tokay School."

And then there is former San Joaquin County sheriff Baxter Dunn, who was released Tuesday from federal prison after serving time for fraud. He has a $55.35 check waiting for him from California Water Service - which lists his address as "Fresh Camp," as opposed to his former workplace of French Camp.

Dunn isn't the only one with money waiting from that water company.

Wesley Shermantine, who was arrested, prosecuted and convicted of multiple murders while Dunn was sheriff, has $30.33 waiting from California Water Service.

His co-defendant Loren Herzog, whose convictions were later thrown out and he received a lighter sentence, could ultimately collect $121.59 from Pacific Gas and Electric.

The list of people on the site doesn't stop at death row: Federal and local judges alike can be found on the site.

Lodi judge Bob McNatt has an unclaimed safe deposit box. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd, whose most recent Lodi connection happened last week when he approved bail for a Lodi man accused of terrorism ties, also has several checks waiting for him, including "securities listed for cash" in the amount of $1,429.16.

Who's on the list

The list of local residents and businesses who could claim money is extensive. Among them are:
• The Lodi Unified School District has a total of $335 in unclaimed money.
• The Galt Fire Department has $125.28 in unpaid vendor reimbursements from Pepsico, $636.90 in life insurance, $1,020 in insurance claims checks, $500 from another insurance company and $836 from a pension fund - for a grand total of $3,118.18.
• A Lodi woman hasn't collected $66.86 in wages from Save Mart, while a Palomar Drive resident hasn't received his $78.77 worth of refunds from the State of Nevada. And an Eden Street man has $332.80 waiting from him from an insurance company.
• San Quentin - the prison Shermantine now calls home - has $40.76 waiting for an Albert Ellis, which could be the prominent San Joaquin County defense attorney. Another well-known local defense attorney, Ralph Cingcon (who will represent Paul Alamo in his murder trial next month), could collect $405 from an insurance company.
• Barbra Streisand could claim $812.61.
• Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could claim his $239.67 and $378.75 in salaries from SCIE, LLC.
• Lodi Community Hospital, 800 S. Lower Sacramento Road, has $2,398.15 waiting for it, including $38.60 from the State of Missouri.
• Galt High's class of 1990 has $575.85 waiting from a savings account.
• And Galt Veterinary Hospital, which has a Clements post office box, could collect $390 in dividends.
- News-Sentinel staff

McNatt was out of town and Pombo could not immediately be reached. The Congressman's $1,194.17 in unclaimed money was news to his spokeswoman, who left him a message.

Celebrities aren't immune, either. Like McNatt, Seinfeld has a safe deposit box waiting for him. The comedian has several other unclaimed money offers, including $458.25 in wages from the Walt Disney company. "Walk the Line" actress Reese Witherspoon has $97.20 coming to her from Tiffany and Co.

Some of the money awaiting lucky recipients comes from the sale of stocks. State law requires that stocks and bonds that are turned over to the state must be sold within two years. The proceeds are then kept and listed under the investor's name.

In some cases, investors or recipients die and heirs are then left to claim the money. They can provide proof of power of attorney, or they can go through heir finders and investigators who help recover the money. Such investigators can legally charge a fee of up to 10 percent of the property ultimately returned.

And then it comes down to the question of whether it's worth the trouble of claiming money? Lodi House, the shelter for battered women and children, has $27.12 in unclaimed money from Pacific Bell.

Meanwhile, the city's total of about $200 won't go very far in balancing the budget, but it might not hurt. City officials did not return a call seeking comment.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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1 comment:

  • Robynn Fried posted at 1:44 am on Wed, Feb 19, 2014.

    Robynn Fried Posts: 14

    Who'd have thought I had $75 just sitting there. The online form was really easy to fill out, to prove I'm me. Looks like I'm going out to dinner.



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