FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Some hot property that’s been unclaimed for years was up for grabs in Fort Lauderdale this weekend, thanks to the State of Florida, and it was all for a good cause.
The assortment of watches, rings and diamonds on display at the 2017 Florida Unclaimed Property Auction rivaled the contents of jewelry store, but the event, held Saturday at the Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek, was more like a treasure hunt for bargain shoppers hoping to take advantage of some forgetful owners.
More than 50,000 items left behind in bank safety deposit boxes across the state went up on the auction block. “Anything that you can think of, anything that would fit in a safe deposit box, we have found,” said Ashley Carr with the Florida Department of Financial Services.
The event, organized by the state’s financial office, featured more than $630,000 in forgotten, abandoned and unclaimed valuables. “If they stayed in a bank for three years without payment, the bank will send it to us, to the State of Florida, as unclaimed property,” said Carr.
The process through which these items end up on the auction block is long. “We will work for another two years to try and find the owner and get them to come forward and claim their items,” said Carr. “If, after all those exhaustive efforts, we are unable to locate them, we will put the item up for auction.”
Among those items was one with historical significance that caught the eye of attendee Bill Lewis. “Lot No. 30, 12-pound silver bar from the shipwrecked Atocha, 1622,” he said. “This thing sank right off the Florida coast, the Florida Keys.”
He walked away with the piece of priceless history after bidding $11,000 on it.
Auction officials said the items have all gone unclaimed for years, even after they’ve made several attempts to reunite them with their rightful owners. “While we have it, it goes to support the public good by going into Florida’s Public Education Trust Fund,” said Carr. “However, our goal is to return 100 percent of the unclaimed property back to the original owner.”
Even after the items have been auctioned, the state will give those who claim their lost property the money it made at the auction.
Officials said the range of unclaimed items is wide. “We have found human ashes. We have found weapons. We have found Purple Heart medals, and those kinds of personal items we would never sell,” said Carr.
This bargain hunting dream had folks lined up with their paddles up, ready for the next time the state does it again.
When asked whether these auctions can become addicting, one attendee replied, “Well, I’m a shopaholic, so yes.”
If you think you may be the owner of some forgotten property, go to the website for the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Unclaimed Property for information on how to claim it before the next auction.
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