Marlene Chukes may have the best job in state government.
As deputy superintendent of unclaimed funds at the Ohio Department of Commerce, Chukes oversees the process of giving away money.
The commerce department is holding $2.3 billion is unclaimed funds for people in Ohio, the majority of them probably unaware that a check could be coming their way.
The funds land in the state’s care after banks, insurance companies and a variety of other businesses who owe people money cannot find them to make payment.
Under state law, the money goes into Ohio’s unclaimed funds account to be held until the rightful owner is located and reunited with their cash.
To see if you are on the list, log into MissingMoney.Com.
Searches are free.
$485,984 owed from a single account
Chukes said a surprising number of people do not pursue the return of their unclaimed funds, even though it can amount to a good deal of money in some cases.
“They are afraid. A lot of people think there is a lengthy process that they have to deal with government,” Chukes said. “But it is a simple process of finding your name and sending in your proper documentation to prove that those are your funds.”
Using Ohio’s public record law, the I-Team requested lists of the top 50 accounts held in Montgomery County. They range from a low of $44,813 to a high of $485,984.
Searches are easy using the MissingMoney.Com website. The state partners with the private company that runs the website, which includes information on unclaimed funds in Ohio and many other states.
If funds are unclaimed, the website displays the name of the account owner, the last known address, source of the money in the account and whether it amounts to more or less than $100.
“It does not show much more than that until you start the claim process,” said Lindsay Burnworth of the Commerce Department’s communication staff. “At that point you might be able to know what might be owed to you.”
When money is found, people can print out a form and mail it in to the state to claim the cash. Proving it belongs to you may be as simple as mailing copies of a few monthly bills or identification cards that show your name and address, Chukes said.
“It is fairly simple to prove that those are yours,” she said. “Your drivers license or Social Security card.”
Luck and detective work
More difficult cases include accounts that belong to corporations, business partnerships and people who have died many years ago. When the account owner is deceased, a lawyer may be needed to assist family members make their claim, Chukes said.
Nina Lund and Bent Larson were the names listed for the $485,984 unclaimed account in Montgomery County, current address unknown. Lund’s last known address, listed with one account, was at the National Cash Register office in London, England.
Tracking down the rightful owners of unclaimed funds can involve a combination of luck and detective work, even in cases where the current address of an account owner is listed by the state. One of the top funds in Dayton, totaling $51,791, come back to an empty building on the grounds of the old United Theological Seminary at 1714 Harvard Blvd.
The listing for the account said it belongs to “Accredited Theological Schools of Ohio.”
The Rev. Daryl Ward of Omega Baptist Church, which now owns the 30-acre former seminary site, said he believes the organization was headquartered on the property many years ago.
“They accredit seminaries to prepare pastors,” he said. “I understand it used to be housed on this campus. I think it now may be in Pittsburgh.”
The Association of Theological Schools, Commission on Accrediting, is indeed located in Pittsburgh. A spokesperson for the association confirmed that the agency had been headquartered in Dayton and that it would be looking into claiming what it is owed.
Ward said his church is planning to demolish several buildings on the old seminary site and construct a new campus.
“We are trying to build a hope center to try to help people find better lives,” Ward said. If the Accrediting Commission receives the money now held by the state, Ward said he hopes it would consider making a contribution to the campus redevelopment effort.
‘It’s your money.’
The state of Ohio encourages people to check the MissingMoney.Com site once or twice a year, since new money comes into the state’s hands on a regular basis.
“Companies are required to report any money that they are holding and if you leave them behind,” Chukes said. “Our duty is to give it back to Ohioans. We encourage people, if it’s $20, get your $20. It’s your money.”
Professional “finders” are permitted to do business in the state as long as they are registered with the Commerce Department. A list of the registered companies is posted on the Commerce website.
“Finders” offer people assistance in filing a claim and by law can charge a fee of up to 10 percent of the account balance.
Chukes said the claim process in most cases is simple enough that people can do it themselves as long as they have access to the internet.
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