California unclaimed property: Is some of it yours?


It looks like a museum stocked with priceless treasures, like expensive jewelry, loose diamonds worth a half-million dollars, along with luxury Swiss watches, and a stash of gold including bracelets, chains, nuggets, coins, and 20-pound bars of pure gold.

The collection sits in a vault inside a non-descript office building in Rancho Cordova, just outside Sacramento.

All of the valuables, including stock certificates, rare baseball cards and vintage Hollywood photos, belongs not to the state, but to the residents of California.

State Controller John Chiang says many people who are owed property are not aware of it. His department holds on to all that cash and property, because no one has come forward to claim it.

By law, any property or money that goes unclaimed for three years must be sent to the state for safekeeping.

"It could be hard cold cash, it could be coins, it could be a letter written by your grandmother, it's what's being held by a financial institution, a bank, insurance company, and so on," said Chiang.

The controller runs a database of all unclaimed property on its website. Finding out if you're owed anything takes just seconds. Simply input your name and hit search. You can also search by the name of business you currently own or have owned in the past. You can also call (800) 992-4647.

Right now, the controller is holding on to property and money belonging to 21 and a half million individuals and organizations including some well-known figures.

Eyewitness News found money belonging to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villarigosa, along with the two city council members who want his job. Eric Garcetti is owed $142 and change along with an unredeemed $100 gift certificate from retailer Zappos. Wendy Greuel is owed $406 from an old bank account.

You may also be entitled to property once owned by a loved one who's now deceased. You can claim it if you can prove you're the legal heir.

"We need to see the wills or estate trust documents to make sure that we give it to the right person," said Chiang.

If the state owes you money or property, it could take from a few weeks to six months or more to get it back.

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