Local man fights for unclaimed money

September 23, 2008 5:53:15 PM PDT
Have you ever found money in a pocket or drawer that you forgot you had? Millions of people have unclaimed property the state is holding.

But the problem is thousands of people in California are all trying to claim their abandoned property at once, and that has caused a big backup. That became a serious problem for a disabled man in Santa Rosa.

Alan Witte can barely walk these days. He has a rare form of Parkinson's Disease that is slowly paralyzing him. Eventually doctors say he won't be able to move at all.

"Your whole body just gradually becomes paralyzed," said Witte.

Alan needs a special wheelchair that can fit in his tiny house, but he couldn't afford one, until he discovered this.

"This little life insurance policy my parents took out during World War II," said Witte.

It was a forgotten $500 policy, purchased when Alan was two-months-old and today it's worth $767. But just when he needed the money the most, Alan couldn't get to it. The state of California was holding his money as unclaimed property.

Alan was told it could take at least six months to process -- for him, that's an eternity.

"What are they doing that takes so long to send me a check for $800 that's already mine?" said Witte.

So Alan called 7 On Your Side, and we contacted the State Controller's Office. Within days, Alan had this check in his hands.

The Controller's Office said a new program to alert people about their unclaimed property has led to a huge backlog of claims and delayed payments for everyone. A special advocate can assist in time-sensitive cases like Alan's.

"I don't' know how your office did it, because they cut through the red tape that quickly," said Witte. "So that's what happened I mean it's Channel 7," said Witte.

The Controller's Office says a new system should help speed up claims processing, and there's an easier way to check online to see if you have unclaimed property.

Click here to see if you have any unclaimed property.


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