$400 in cash down the shredder

July 12, 2010 6:13:23 PM PDT
Many of us these days are shredding our personal documents before putting them in the recycle bin. But have you ever shredded something you need by mistake? This is one man's heartbreaking story

When you shred a lot of paper, you might not notice something important is tucked in there. That is exactly what happened to one Bay Area man who accidentally shredded a very valuable envelope, and just wishes he could get it back.

Brandon Whitney of Benicia routinely shreds his documents to prevent identity theft. His shredder makes it real easy to turn any important document into unreadable recyclables, but maybe a little too easy.

"He said, 'Mom, you can't believe what I did today," said his mother, Leslie Whitney.

Brandon's father left a plain envelope on Brandon's desk containing four crisp $100 bills, only Brandon didn't know that. He went ahead and shredded stuff as usual, and the money went in, too.

"I went to go get the envelope, I realized that he might have put it in there, so I went to the shredder and all the money was in there," said Brandon.

Brandon was horrified to find little bits of Ben Franklin's face among the mounds of shredded waste.

Brandon wasn't giving up though. He knew the pieces of money were all in there, somewhere. If he could just put them back together.

"I went through and I individually picked out each piece of the $100 bills," he said. "It's like confetti."

Brandon took the pieces to the bank, but nobody there wanted to trade mangled money for whole bills. He tried putting the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle, but that was absolutely mind boggling.

"It'd be hard enough if it was one bill, but when you've got four comingled, I don't know how you'd ever be able do that," said Leslie.

Brandon was about to give up and throw out all the pieces when his mother called 7 On Your Side. We did a little research and amazingly we found a solution.

A special team at the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington, D.C. works all day doing nothing but repairing money that is accidentally burned, disintegrated, chewed, buried, and yes, shredded. It is a free service of the U.S. government.

So can these experts really turn a mound of shredded bills, lumps of mold, or a pile of ashes into gold? Brandon's chopped up bills are now on their way to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

In part two of this story on Tuesday, we will find out if Brandon has any hope to repair his damaged money.


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