It’s what some people dream about: finding an envelope filled with money. One South Florida woman did find it in a parking lot, but she wasn’t dreaming of riches. She was determined to find the owner. She couldn’t, so she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you spend 30 seconds with Betty Bentley, I can guarantee her personality will make you smile.

Betty Bentley: “Thank you. I have always been a happy person. I’m always happy.”

And no doubt Betty has good reason to be less than happy. Her husband Ralph was in a motorcycle accident that nearly killed him, breaking his back, neck, and clavicle, and their insurance didn’t cover all his medical bills.

Betty Bentley: “We had to take the money we had saved up, which was $209,000 dollars. So that’s why the house went into foreclosure.”

But again, they came out of debt.

Betty Bentley: “And we came out of foreclosure, and we finally paid off the house October of last year.”

Clearly Betty could use a financial break.

Betty Bentley: “I saw this black pouch. It was on the ground.”

And she seemed to get it in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Betty Bentley: “So when I went to open it I saw these, and I thought, what are these? And then I read it. It said, ‘U.S. savings bonds.'”

Not only did she find this stack of savings bonds. Also in the envelope were a blank check and the information about two CDs, and an IRA worth over $100,000 dollars. And what did Betty do?

Betty Bentley: “So I went back into Wal-Mart.”

Thirty days after Betty turned the envelope in to lost and found, Wal-Mart called and said no one claimed it at all. Come and get it. Betty did. Many people would have tried to cash it all in.

Betty Bentley: “Yeah, but I am not one of those people. I don’t believe in taking what’s not mine.”

The people on the CDs and accounts were Charles Juve and Marilyn Juve, who bought the savings bonds in DeForest, Wisconsin in 1988.

Betty Bentley: “They are saying $200, but the face value is $347, so it’s like $6,947 worth of U.S. savings bonds that need to be returned back to the rightful owner.”

Betty could not find any address for the Juves in Wisconsin or Florida. She thought about giving it to the police, but didn’t.

Betty Bentley: “When they receive something they put it on back burner. I don’t want this on back burner.”

Betty called the bank where the couple had over $100,000. They would not disclose any information to her. Then she tracked down Marilyn Juve.

Betty Bentley: “So I went down the death columns and it said she was deceased as of 2011, so at that point I ran into a dead end.”

Some people would see that as a sign from God to give up and try to cash in. Not Betty.

Betty Bentley: “No, it wouldn’t be right. And I don’t think God would bless me if I tried to do something illegal with them.”

She couldn’t track down Mr. Juve or a family member and was out of ideas.

Well, Howard, not only is Betty a joy to talk to, she is sharp and she can’t find the owners of all this. So legally, what is she required to do?

Howard Finkelstein: “If it’s cash, you turn it in, and if no one claims it, it’s finders keepers; you can keep it. But if it’s credit cards, checks, savings bonds, it’s illegal to try to cash them or try to use them. If you can’t find the owner with the credit card, destroy it. With the savings bonds, send them back to the U.S. Treasury.”

It took a while, but we sorted things out. Just as Betty found, Marilyn Juve died in 2011 and Charles Juve passed away in 1992, but there was no record of it in Florida. We discovered it by finding his daughter Julie Reneau in Wisconsin. When we told her why we were contacting her, she was stunned, telling me I cannot believe that Betty would go through so much trouble to find the owner of the money. She added Mrs. Bentley is a terrific person who is a model for others, she is caring and thoughtful.

Betty Bentley: “That warms my heart. I feel so good that I was able to give something back to someone.”

Betty then mailed everything she found to Julie, who will then check to see if the savings bonds are still valid or have been canceled and cashed in. Either way, Julie is happy, and so is the woman who was determined that they got into the hands of the rightful owners.

Betty Bentley: “I filled up with tears, because if it was me, I would want someone to do the same thing for me. I just felt good, and we still talk. She calls me every few days, and I call her.”

Julie is now checking with the U.S. Treasury to see if her mother canceled those bonds when she lost them or if she can cash them in. An unanswered question, though: How did that envelope wind up in a parking lot three years after her mother died? Julie and Betty, like us, have no idea. And unless the person who dropped it calls me, we will never know.

Invested in a problem you want to lose? Wanna establish a bond with someone? Drop your information with us. We won’t get lost as we find a way to track down a solution. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.


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