Betty Lin-Fisher: Man still fighting for payout from misplaced $10,000 check

By Betty Lin-Fisher
Beacon Journal consumer columnist

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Rick Fugo is still hopeful he will be able to get his 1993 cashier check for $10,692.60 cashed. Fugo forgot about the check until he found it in September 2012. (Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal file photo)
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Rick Fugo, the Northfield Village man who is trying to get reunited with more than $10,000 in a check he had misplaced 19 years ago, is no closer to his money than he was in September, when I first shared his story.

To recap, Fugo stumbled upon a cashier’s check from 1993 in his files in February of this year. He said he remembers closing a Charter One account in 1993 and had meant to look for a better interest rate.

But Fugo, who owned a high-tech vehicle electronics company installing cellphones, remote starts and security systems, said he got busy in the 1990s with his business and raising three kids.

He forgot about the check.

Fugo said the mistake he made in trying to cash the check was in not taking it to a Charter One branch, where he still has accounts, but by depositing it into another bank. It wasn’t until a few weeks passed that Fugo received a letter saying the check had been returned as a “noncash item” and his account was being debited the $10,692.60 that was originally credited. A printout with a digital image of his original check was included in the letter.

Fugo spent a few months arguing with Charter One to try to figure out what happened before coming to me. Charter One said it could not discuss his particular situation, but said if a check was not cashed or reissued, it would be turned over to the state’s Division of Unclaimed Funds after five years.

When I wrote about Fugo’s situation, he recently had been contacted by the head of the Division of Unclaimed Funds after I inquired on his behalf regarding his check. Fugo said the superintendent, Yaw Obeng, phoned to tell him he would look into this situation. Obeng, who was under the impression Fugo still had his original check, told him that he would get his money back.

But the comments from state officials became more guarded after they realized the original check was no longer in Fugo’s possession. And with new banking regulations, the original check was long gone and replaced by only a digital image.

Fugo had a glimmer of hope the state might be able to reunite him with his money, because I also had learned Ohio held $99,214.10 in “unknown accounts” funds from Charter One for the year Fugo’s money could have been turned over to the state. He hoped there would be enough paperwork in his files to get his money back.

Not so.

A few weeks ago, Fugo received a letter from Obeng saying the state had completed a thorough review and that his claim was denied.

“Unfortunately, the bank was unable to determine if the 1993 check was cancelled, reissued or paid. It could also not confirm that the funds had ever been reported to the Division. The Division is committed to paying the rightful owners of unclaimed funds reported to the state,” the letter read.

Obeng said Fugo had not presented sufficient evidence to support payment of the money to him. He also informed Fugo he had the right to appeal the decision and request a hearing.

Fugo said he is not done fighting and already has submitted a request for a hearing.

“Do I roll over and say, ‘Well, you know what? There’s only two people who can have my money, ’cause I don’t.’ I think we’ll agree, it’s the bank or the state,” Fugo said.

“I gave them all the proof. They said I failed to prove it,” he said. “How can I prove to them that they didn’t pay me? I feel the burden of proof falls on them.”

Fugo says he is willing to take the issue to court to get his money back — and he realizes he might spend a large portion of the $10,000 to get only some of it back.

The administrative hearing will be held in front of a third-party hearing officer, who will not be an employee of the Division of Unclaimed Funds, said Department of Commerce spokesman Dennis Ginty.

At the hearing, a person can represent him or herself, or by an attorney or other representative and can present evidence and examine witnesses.

Once the hearing officer hears the arguments, the officer will make a decision. The Division of Unclaimed Funds can accept, modify or reject the hearing officer’s decision, Ginty said. Once the division gives a final order, the consumer can appeal that decision to Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Fugo said he intends to represent himself at the hearing and will hire an attorney if it goes to court.

“They have my money. Why should I turn around and say that it’s OK? A lot of people wouldn’t do it because they don’t have the ambition or knowledge. I shouldn’t have to fight for my money,” Fugo said.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty


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