Menlo Park man's valuables returned — after 11 years | February 12, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 12, 2010

Menlo Park man's valuables returned — after 11 years

State's lost-and-found holding $5 billion in 'dormant' property

by Sue Dremann

When Victor Lee went to the Chase Bank on Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto last month, he expected the valuables in his safe-deposit box were safe and readily available. But Lee got a surprise: His safe-deposit box was gone and there was no record the bank ever had it. Gone were his mother's diamond earrings and the gold coins he had collected, along with other belongings.

This story contains 930 words.

Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.

If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.

Log in     Subscribe

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at


1 person likes this
Posted by rem
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2010 at 10:36 am

People wonder why California is a "joke".

If I am paying a MONTHLY fee for a "save deposit" box, by my definition and other states definition THAT IS AN ACTIVE ACCOUNT.

If Lee has been paying a monthly fee since 1998, this might be an interesting court case especially if it becomes a class action!!!!!

1 person likes this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2010 at 11:15 am

Note that the link mentioned in the above story ( contains a form to easily make an inquiry over the Web to discover if the Comptroller is holding any of your property. Try it. You may be surprised.

1 person likes this
Posted by jerryl
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Since when is a Safe Deposit box "an account".
I knew about this dormant account law and have had to write letters several times to keep certain long term savings accounts active. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think they could do it for Safety Deposit boxes which, by their very nature are meant for long term storage of "stuff".

I thought this law was an outrage the first time I heard of it and now it is hard to think of a term to describe it.

1 person likes this
Posted by heirloom not in box
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2010 at 3:18 pm

There have been other stories recently about people going to their boxes and finding them empty or finding stuff missing. So I went to our safety deposit box to check since we hadn't been there in a long time.

The most valuable thing was not there -- the thing that would be easiest to sell, too -- and it was listed on our list of things we put there, but what proof do we have? Everything else was there. I've been looking all over the house, hoping we somehow brought it home, and although it's a slim, slim chance, I suppose it's possible.

The big question these things bring up is: how safe really are safety deposit boxes?

1 person likes this
Posted by victor h lee
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm

the article was incorrect in the website i went to claim the was which is the state controller's website. it is possible there were other items in my box, but i really can't recall everything that may have been there.

1 person likes this
Posted by Cieboy
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2010 at 10:52 am

I worked in insurance finance and there were stiff rules about making at least three attempts to track down owners of uncashed claim checks before being sent to the state Sounds strange there would be a law against doing this. Sounds like the state is more interested in generating revenue.

1 person likes this
Posted by S.F&*%$'d
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm

So, tell me this. I reached a final settlement with my insurance company for a large disaster loss. The settlement for the final amount was less than 25% of the remaining loss, but like many people, I was worn down by their tactics and just wanted to be done. Twenty-five percent is better than zero.

A third party mediated the settlement. Then the insurance company sent me a release that they said I had to sign in order to get the agreed settlement. Okay, but unfortunately, the cover letter mentioned an entirely different matter. The lawyers for the company claimed it was a "mistake" and that the release had nothing to do with that other matter mentioned in the cover letter, but my own lawyer ($3,000 in legal fees later to evaluate the lengthy release) said it did.

So I asked the insurance company to send a letter stating that the release was unrelated, but they would not. The insurance company's lawyer did call and tell me more than once that my check for $39,000 was in her desk, I just needed to sign that release.

(This was during Quackenbush's tenure; no help from the DOI available.) Question: would that check have gone to the state as "unclaimed"? Or, let me restate that, did the insurer have any duty to hand that settlement over to the state, since I didn't (couldn't) claim it?

1 person likes this
Posted by Taken Advantage Of
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 16, 2010 at 1:51 pm

So after claiming my safety deposit box contents and paying the back yearly rentals on it to the bank, I find out that ALL my items were NOT in the bag. The bank had stored my items at the bottom of their vault for the past four 1/2 years. Due to my illness, I was unable to go in, lost track of the billings last sent out back then... but I was thinking my items were safe. After I contacted the bank telling them I was coming in, they immediately wrote to the State saying they had my safety box contents- covering themselves..they told the state they could not get ahold of me, which is nonsense, I have lived at the same address for over 26 years, am listed in the phone book as well. When confronted with the mystery disappearance of my items, I was given a blank stare. I need to have this investigated as I would like my items back, obviously. But how to prove that said items were in my box??? Only the tissue paper remained that they were wrapped in. (Why would I store tissue paper in my box if it were not to secure my objects??!!!!!) I noted that on the receipt that I had to sign to receive my other items.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.