Hey, I found money in your house. Mine now!

13 12 2007


Contractor, Owner Feud Over Hidden Cash

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND – A contractor who helped discover bundles of Depression-era U.S. currency totaling $182,000 hidden behind bathroom walls said the homeowner should turn the money over to him or at least share it.

Bob Kitts said his feud with the owner of the 83-year house, a former high school classmate, has deteriorated to the point where they speak to each other only through lawyers.

Kitts said his lawyer has drafted a lawsuit that he hopes will force Amanda Reece to turn over the money she has kept.

Most of the currency, issued in 1927 and 1929, is in good condition, and some of the bills are so rare that one currency appraiser valued the treasure at up to $500,000, Kitts said.

Reece accuses Kitts of extortion.

The fight began in May 2006 when Kitts was gutting Reece’s bathroom and found a box below the medicine cabinet that contained $25,200.

“I almost passed out,” Kitts recalled. “It was the ultimate contractor fantasy.”

He called Reece, who rushed home. Together they found another steel box tied to the end of a wire nailed to a stud. Inside was more than $100,000, Kitts said. Two more boxes were filled with a mix of money and religious memorabilia.

“It was insane,” Kitts said. “She was in shock , she was a wreck.”

The bundles had “P. Dunne” written on them, a likely reference to Peter Dunne, a businessman who owned the home during the Depression.

Kitts said he took some of the currency for an appraisal and learned that many of the $10 bills were rare 1929-series Cleveland Federal Reserve bank notes, worth about $85 each. There also were $500 bills and one $1,000 bill.

John Chambers, an attorney for Reece, said Kitts rejected his client’s offer of a 10 percent finder’s fee and demanded 40 percent of the small fortune.

Reece has no intention of backing down in the face of what she considers a shakedown, Chambers said.

Kitts asserts he found lost money, and court rulings in Ohio establish that a “finders keepers” law applies if there’s no reason to believe any owner will reappear to claim it.

It may be up to a judge to decide, said Heidi Robertson, a professor who teaches property law at Cleveland State University.

Kitts said it would be unfair for him to take everything.

“For such a happy, exciting adventure, I can’t believe it just went to heck like this,” he said.

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