Advertisement
  1. Archive

STATE HOLDS $1-BILLION IN UNCLAIMED PROPERTY

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has returned a Purple Heart, rare coins and a $300,000 check from the $1-billion worth of unclaimed property the state is holding, but she still hasn't walked down the hall to give Gov. Charlie Crist his check.

And Crist isn't the only high-profile person who has unclaimed property in the state's hands. There's former Gov. Jeb Bush, actors Wesley Snipes and Burt Reynolds, the Miami Heat's Alonzo Mourning, Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts, football Hall of Famer Joe Namath, Florida Panthers captain Olli Jokinen and wrestler Hulk Hogan.

There's also the state chairmen of both major political parties - Republican Jim Greer and Democrat Karen Thurman. Tennis star Pete Sampras is owed $15 from the Orlando Expressway Authority. Former New York Yankees and Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden, who was released from prison in the fall, never claimed a refund from a Pinellas County court.

"It's just stunning to me," said Sink, who added that she plans to give Crist a check during a Cabinet meeting.

Today, Sink is overseeing an auction of unclaimed items from safe deposit boxes. Once they've been left for three years, banks turn them over to her department, which tries to find the owners or their heirs. The items are eventually auctioned, and the cash is held in a trust fund and can be claimed at any time.

Among the items up for bid at the Orlando auction are baseballs signed by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and former Yankee Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series; colonial Spanish coins; a $500 bill; diamond jewelry; and a 17-carat natural sapphire ring.

Unclaimed cash is simply held until it's claimed. The interest on the $1-billion in unclaimed cash goes toward education. The state tries to find the owners, but sets a priority on large accounts, which may be why people like Crist aren't tracked down.

Crist is owed a refund on a car insurance policy. Crist changed apartments in the downtown St. Petersburg building where he lives and the company had the older apartment number.

While some amounts are small, there are some large accounts, like a Sarasota man who had $300,000 returned, mostly from stocks and dividends.

Thurman didn't know about at least three unclaimed accounts in her name until she received a phone call Thursday afternoon.

"If it's a half-million dollars, I'm out of here," she joked. "Absolutely, I'm going to check these out."

Her counterpart at the Republican Party of Florida was equally surprised.

"Being notified of an unclaimed refund is like finding a new shining penny on a sunny day," Greer said.

Fast facts

Are you on list?

There are 7-million unclaimed accounts owed to 4-million Floridians. They can be telephone company refunds, uncashed paychecks, the contents of safe deposit boxes that have gone untouched or the balance of a bank account someone forgot about. The unclaimed funds are listed on the CFO's Web site, www.fltreasurehunt.org.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement