You may already be a winner!

March 23, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Sun Staff Writer

Edwina Dike, come on down!

Elizabeth C. Smith and Elsie A. Lee, come on down!

The state comptroller's office has some very good news for all of you -- and for thousands of others joining a growing list of people with unclaimed money, stocks, jewelry or other property.

Some people may be dead, others may have moved.

There are businesses that went belly-up, lost track of accounts or had checks go astray.

Even government agencies appear on the latest version of the unclaimed property list published twice a year by the state comptroller's office, and being distributed through newspapers across Maryland -- including today's editions of The Sun.

Marvin Bond, spokesman for the comptroller, said the new list has about 21,000 names of people, businesses and agencies of all sorts with property that has gone unclaimed for five years -- bank accounts, stocks, the contents of safe-deposit boxes, insurance checks.

The value of the property ranges from $50 into the thousands, with Edwina Dike, Elizabeth Smith and Elsie Lee -- or their estates -- among those owed the largest amounts.

Most of the property is being held by banks or corporations, which are required to file reports when accounts become inactive or property is left unclaimed for five years. Eighty days after publication, the property is turned over to the state -- with $15 million to $18 million worth every year going into the government's general fund.

Jewelry may be appraised and auctioned, stocks redeemed, but rightful owners are entitled to claim the proceeds at any time, Mr. Bond said.

"There is no statute of limitations," he said.

The state's computer records contain more than 160,000 accounts of unclaimed property worth about $60 million, dating back a quarter-century. The comptroller's office sets up a display at the state fair and at malls, trade shows and festivals, offering people a chance to check the records and see what treasure may be owed to them.

Typically, Mr. Bond said, 11,000 to 15,000 people will enter their names in the computer during the state fair, and "somewhere between 800 and 1,200 will find something." The average claim from the state fair was worth $830, he said.

But the value of some unclaimed property may be subject to debate -- like false teeth from a long-forgotten bank box, or jewelry that has more sentimental than monetary worth, Mr. Bond said.

The biggest bonanzas, though, have exceeded $200,000.

Increasingly, computer match-ups among government agencies are playing a role in tracking down property owners. The state will be getting help in finding owners from the Internal Revenue Service in April, for example, with the federal agency sending notices of unclaimed property to 12,824 individuals for whom it has a current address.

A look through the 18 pages of names in tiny type in the newest listing shows many agencies and businesses that would seem easy to track down, but Mr. Bond said the seven workers in the state's unclaimed property office have far too many listings to play detective with individual accounts.

They are too busy, it seems, to call indicted Baltimore Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean with the good news that her bankrupt Four Seas and Seven Winds travel agency has two unclaimed property accounts.

Finding Edwina Dike may be more difficult. Three different accounts list addresses in Simpsonville and Prince Frederick, but there is no telephone listing for anyone named "Dike" in either community.

So if you know Edwina Dike, or her rightful heir, the good news is the state has about $7,800 waiting to be claimed.

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