Mississippi State Fair attendees find long-lost money

Published 12:07 am Monday, October 8, 2007

JACKSON (AP) — Like the spinning rides and the corn dogs, one of the fixtures at the Mississippi State Fair is the state Treasury Department’s unclaimed property booth.

The booth was money in the pocket Saturday for dozens of fair fans. By 4:30 p.m., a total of more than $17,600 had been claimed by 64 people in amounts ranging from $43 to $2,397.72.

The unclaimed dollars — about $38 million — are from utility deposits, long-forgotten bank accounts or shares in old insurance companies. If the company or agency that has the money cannot locate the owner, the money becomes the responsibility of the state treasury.

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Those who discover they have unclaimed money will receive a form that has to be mailed back to the state Treasury Department.

Treasurer Tate Reeves estimated one in five Mississippians are owed some of that.

‘‘Last fiscal year, we were able to return a little over $12 million,’’ Reeves said. ‘‘It’s the part of government I like. Usually, when someone thinks of the state treasurer, they think of us taking money. But we actually get to give money back.’’

Getting the money is easy, said Mammie Crowley, who works for the Treasury Department.

‘‘We give you a form that you fill out and get notarized. We ask that you give us four to six weeks to send you the money, though we’ve been averaging two to three weeks for processing.’’

The booth, located inside the Trade Mart, will be open from noon to 7 p.m. every day of the fair. Along the front and side are several thick binders containing pages of names in alphabetical order.

Bruce and Connie Lozier of McComb flipped through one of the binders for a few minutes until they stopped at a familiar name.

‘‘That’s my dad. He’s deceased. The money is from a long time ago,’’ Connie Lozier said, pointing to the $145.22 listed next to Harold Gartman, her father’s name. ‘‘I want to find out if there’s any way to collect it.’’

Reeves said heirs can collect deceased relatives’ unclaimed money with the proper paperwork.

Heather Turner of New Orleans was on her way to the talent show but paused to browse.

‘‘I just happened to check and found $321,’’ she said. The money was from a company with which she had insured a house she owns in Mississippi.

‘‘Maybe I overpaid them,’’ Turner said.

Bernestine Sturkey of Pelahatchie wasn’t as fortunate. Her name wasn’t on the list.

‘‘It’s still worth checking. Oh, yes,’’ she said. ‘‘You don’t know until you get in here.’’