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CA’s Asset Seizure Policy is Changing

Posted Jul 9, 2007 5:28 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In recent years, the California officials have increased the amount of money they spend to locate dormant assets that the government can seize. But they've decreased the amount of money they spend to notify owners first—to almost zero. As a result, even when owners could be located with relative ease, they routinely weren't told the state was about to seize stock, savings accounts, safe deposit box contents or other assets because of a lack of recent activity concerning the account.

Now, following a federal court ruling that this practice violates owners' constitutional rights—and an injunction prohibiting the state from continuing to take assets without notice—officials are scrambling to fill an estimated $442 million budget shortfall and establish new procedures for locating owners of dormant assets, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Even so, critics aren't satisfied. California Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) has scheduled investigative hearings and pledges that the Governmental Organization Committee will look into the state controller's dealings with private bounty hunting companies hired to find dormant assets, the Times reports. Meanwhile, owners complain that even when they get their assets back from the state, a lack of interest payments in the meantime puts them at a significant disadvantage.

"You can't be lost anymore. I do probate for a living and have no problem finding heirs," says Jo-Ann Seitzinger, a paralegal who had lived, with her husband, Dick, at the same address for 20 years before the state seized General Electric stock from her husband's account in 1994, without notice. "It's impossible they couldn't find Dick and Jo-Ann Seitzinger."

"It's a huge problem, and it's going to take a lot of unwinding," Florez says.

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