With tax season bearing down, many New Yorkers are dive-bombing into their couch cushions for spare change and waiting anxiously for government refunds to help make ends meet.
Not so for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who are some of dozens of other top officials with cash sitting in an $11 billion pile of orphan money under the auspices of State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s Unclaimed Funds department.
The Unclaimed Funds database, started circa 1985, allows New Yorkers to type in their name and find whether they are owed money from dozens of corporations or government entities. There is more than $11 billion in Unclaimed Funds, which date back to 1940, according to the comptroller’s office.
The list of New York politicos who are owed money is long and illustrious, and in some cases notorious.
Former State Sen. Nick Spano, recently convicted in a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s office on charges of tax fraud, has redeemable funds, as does Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. and lobbyist Richard Lipsky, both of whom have been accused of corruption. There’s also someone listed as “PedroGauti Espada” of the Bronx, who may be Pedro Gautier Espada, currently standing trial along with his father, former State Sen. Pedro Espada, on federal corruption charges.
Former state comptroller Alan Hevesi, who pled guilty on corruption charges in a massive pay to play scandal and is now in jail, has some unclaimed funds too, and so do two of his children, including his son Andrew, who is owed something from Tiffany and Co., and his daughter Laura.
Other notorious New York political figures who have unclaimed funds include former Rep. Eric Massa, who resigned after a tickling scandal, former state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez, convicted and jailed on embezzlement charges, and former Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, convicted of corruption charges.
And then there’s former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, indicted and jailed on fraud charges, who appears to have missed funds directed to Giuliani Headquarters at 5 Times Square, possibly because of an accounts payable misspelling that labeled him as “Benard Kerik.” Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s money suffered a similar fate– unclaimed funds sent to his 2006 campaign office are addressed to “Eliott Spitzer.”
A spokeswoman for the comptroller’s office said notoriety can lead some individuals to refrain from claiming their due, especially if the money could end up going to potential claimants in lawsuits.
“There have been people that have had negative publicity and in some cases those accounts are part of class-action suits, and once the filers claimed, it goes to people from the class action suit,” said Vanessa Lockel, the comptroller’s deputy press secretary.
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