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New Budget Gives More Flexibility to State’s ‘Lost and Found’

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

The State Controller says the budget that will be signed by the governor on Friday includes a special provision. John Chiang says it gives him more flexibility when it comes to finding owners of unclaimed property. And one man at the Controller's office is just waiting to return some very special items. Jenny O'Mara reports.

Stephan Edwards oversees the bureau of unclaimed property in the state controller's office.

The small windowless room houses the contents of safe deposit boxes turned over by banks. There are valuable items in there like gold coins, bricks of silver, precious jewelry. There are sentimental things like family pictures. But for Edwards there are two items he is waiting to reunite with the owners.

Edwards : It's driving me crazy but that's O.K… (laughs)

He points to a Congressional Medal of Honor.

Edwards : It came in through a safe deposit box along with a Navy Cross. This is the highest military medal that anyone can earn.

Inactive accounts-including safe deposit boxes-can be seized by the state after three years. The Controller says he's been hamstrung by policies that prevented him from notifying owners.

Some whose things were sold have sued and a federal judge has banned the state from the practice. Edwards says the reforms have allowed him to track down the owners of the medals. He says a notification letter to the heirs is ready to go.

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