Look at the three people standing next to you, but not too closely if you are in a police lineup. One member of your four-person group has money coming. Cash money. No, you do not have to sell your left kidney nor win the Lotto nor bet on the Longhorns to lose, and I am not a Nigerian prince. You see, for years banks, utility companies and loan sharks had uncashed checks, utility deposits and such with no owner. Someone had put money in, then had died, been kidnapped or run as a Democratic in Texas and totally disappeared. So the companies would make a “good-faith effort” to find the owners, (hehehe), then keep the cash.
The Texas Legislature finally passed a law requiring any account that had been dormant for between one to five years must be turned over to the Texas comptroller who would seek out the heirs and send them a check. “What’s the catch?” you ask. Ah, you are the sharpie here, aren’t you? The state wants proof, so you have to jump through a few hoops to prove you really are heir to the Spindletop fortune. I found the state owed my mother 90 cents and it really wasn’t worth the trouble. Two other Texans with my name have funds coming. One is owed $1.38, the other $107.79. But a few years ago I did find an uncashed check from me to me for $1,200.
Let’s see what kind of cash is piled up in an Austin vault. According to State Comptroller Susan Combs, “There is currently about $3 billion in property that has not been claimed and approximately $800 million in shared property that has been partially claimed and paid to some of the owners.” Last year alone Texas returned more than $159 million to its owners. The top three largest unclaimed property payouts made in fiscal 2013 were South Plains Telephone Cooperative with $1,503,198.95. Then came the Texans Credit Union at $1,032,265.90 and Conoco Phillips with $978,103.76. The rest of the top 10, all receiving high six figures, were Ann Christian, estate of Josephine Villere, Onewest Bank, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Gunadi and Indrawati Kurniawan , U.S. Department of the Treasury and Security Service Federal Credit Union. Notice that the U.S. Treasury received two payments (totaling $1.3 million) of funds it didn’t know it had. That explains a lot.
But these were the cheap seats compared to winners in past years. William H. Olivo executor for Marie Jenny Olivo of Lubbock, got $1,921,173 in 2004. The Texas Gas Corporation of Wimberley received $2,194,122 in 2004. The all-time winner so far is Winston Johnson of Dallas who was paid $4 million in 1996.
So if one in four Texans has money coming, you may already be a winner, Mr. or Mrs. Texan! Here’s what you do: go to www.claimittexas.org or call 1-800 654-FIND,
and search for property in any amount held in your name, the name of your company, children, senile parents and/or aliases. If you’ve found a significant amount, go through the steps to get your greedy hands on your long-lost fortune. There is no time limit, thus the money could be your phone deposit when you were a freshman in college your first year, which lasted quite a bit longer than just one year.
While you are looking up your great-grand-uncle’s Confederate pension number, here are a few facts to know: Approximately 1.1 million claims have been approved since 2007 totaling $1 billion. Unclaimed property payments began in 1962, and approximately $900.8 million was returned in the 44 years prior to Combs taking office. The state refers to all of this as “unclaimed properties” because, besides money, it also receives contents of abandoned safety deposit boxes. When we lump all of this together, that vault is bulging with $3.8 billion, which include (you can scan this): 383,899 properties worth $1,000 or more; 3,819 properties worth $10,000 or more; 7,082 properties worth $25,000 or more and 1,088 properties worth $100,000 or more. Maybe it’s not all in a vault, so what do you suppose we are paying in rental costs for a couple hundred mini-store houses scattered around Austin?
The comptroller’s office sends out letters to many of these unsuspecting winners, but I have a question: Why are they MIA? The University of Texas has 162 items to pick up, including $300 that Stanford University owes it, for some unknown reason. Texas A&M has 20 including $1,000 from Honda. Did Johnny Football trade in his Mercedes and has a rebate coming? The City of Houston has 270 items on the list. Austin has 20. Couldn’t someone from the comptroller’s office just walk across the street and deliver the cash? The ever-evasive City of Dallas has 34 items awaiting. “Last known address — Dallas City Hall.” No kidding. Has anyone in the comptroller’s office heard of the Texas Comptroller’s Office? It has 14 items coming.
Which bureaucrat is goofing off, the controller’s office or the city clerks? “Hey, Charlie, got a letter here saying we got a million bucks coming from the Left Bank of the Trinity. On the other hand, why bother? It’s only taxpayers’ money.” Am I missing something here? Baylor University is listed 36 times. If someone wandered around Waco asking, “Have you ever heard of a Baylor U?” that money could be returned. Starbucks is owed 20 properties, which is enough for one block.
So get busy hunting for that loot. Just remember that I get a finder’s fee. Oh, did I mention that my own search turned up a $1,200 check for me? That’s an entire day’s income. We must act quickly because, at the next session of the Texas Legislature, as usual, our lawmakers will start looking for more money. It is only a matter of time until one of them proposes, “Hey, right down the street the state is sitting on $3 billion with no takers. So my idea is….”
Ashby is discovered at email@example.com