Twenty California legislators are among millions of residents eligible for a slice of $5.7 billion that the state wants to give to rightful owners — all they have to do is ask.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is eligible for a tiny bite of the pie, records show.

So are state Attorney General Jerry Brown, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, former Sacramento Kings center Vlade Divac and retired NBA basketball starMagic Johnson.

"This is real cash for a lot of people," Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for state Controller John Chiang, said of unclaimed property belonging to more than 11 million people or organizations.

With California hurting from recession and unemployment, residents may be more motivated than ever to check whether money is owed them by searching online at www.sco.ca.gov.

By law, uncashed or unclaimed bank accounts, cashier's checks, stock dividends, royalty payments, certificates of deposit and other property must be sent to the state if issuers or affected businesses cannot locate owners within about three years.

The controller has been holding some of the assets for years for residents who switched addresses long ago, or forgot about a savings account, or were not aware of an inheritance.

Chiang cannot dispose of the assets, but owners do not profit by leaving them unclaimed. Legislation to pay interest has been proposed, but killed, in each of the past two years, Jordan said.


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Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, has collected on two claims to the fund since 2007: a $1,643 real estate escrow overpayment, and a $250 telephone company refund.

"A deposit was required for the installation of phones, and as time goes on, you move, you disconnect and the deposit is long forgotten," Ashburn said. "It shows up as excess property."

Of the 20 state lawmakers owed money from the fund, Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, is due the most: $1,000 from an escrow account and $132 from Pacific Bell Telephone Co.

Hall said he was surprised to learn about his windfall recently when Chiang came to a round-table discussion with a list of eligible recipients from Hall's district.

"Considering our recent salary reduction, the $1,000 will help," Hall quipped. Annual legislative pay was cut by the state's salary-setting commission from $116,208 to $95,291. Per diem and benefits also took an 18 percent hit.

Though many of the state's unclaimed debts are for much smaller amounts, $100 or less, Hall said no amount is too small to matter.

"I'll tell you what: $75 would get my light bill paid for two months," he said.

Freshman Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, is due $1,051 from three transactions involving a dormant savings or credit union account, a securities transaction, and payment of a corporate dividend, records show.

Republican Assemblymen Curt Hagman and Dan Logue, of Chino Hills and Linda, respectively, said they had no idea they were owed money by the state until contacted by The Bee.

Hagman is due $175, and Logue $95.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, is due nine shares of AOL-Time Warner stock. He lost track of the odd shares as he moved and the corporation sold assets, he said.

Whitman and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh, are owed $165 from an old insurance claims payment. She also is due $70 from a refund tied to the address of the Walt Disney Co., where she once worked.

Brown is entitled to 18 shares of stock, and $61 in cash, from a transaction involving U.S. Bancorp and linked to the Oakland address of a nonprofit group, We The People, that Brown once led.

Newsom, San Francisco's mayor, is due $50. Former Los Angeles Lakers star Johnson is owed $1,055, and Divac, the former Kings center, can claim $136 from the fund, records show.

To claim assets
  • Owners of dormant assets can obtain a claim form at www.claimit.ca.gov.
  • No fee is charged to file a claim. Applicants must provide a copy of their Social Security card, photo identification, and perhaps a birth certificate or other document.
  • Simple cash claims may be processed within 30 to 60 days, but more-complicated property refunds can take several months longer to complete, according to the controller's office.