If you find a large amount of money on the street - do you get to keep it?

Published: Oct. 22, 2019 at 8:55 PM EDT
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(WWBT) - If you find a wad of cash on the street - do you get to keep it? Well, if you keep it without trying to return it, that’s considered “theft by finding.”

A Hanover resident reported the money he found thinking he would get to keep it if no one claimed it but the sheriff’s office kept it. It may surprise you, but law enforcement agencies make up their own policy. So, procedures can vary. The Virginia Attorney General’s office says there’s no state law guiding police on what to do.

Taft Cameron showed us where he picked up a roll of cash off the ground just outside a door as he was leaving the store.

“I had a Home Depot bag in my hand. I dropped it in the bag, took a couple, three steps. Turned around and went back inside and the found the manager,” Cameron said.

He gave his name and phone number to a Home Depot manager, signed a receipt and took the cash home. But he was ready to drive back if the true owner returned looking for the lost money.

“I’m like everybody else. I’m not good all the time. But I try to be a honest person,” Cameron said.

His mind racing through ways to spend the windfall if no one claims it, Taft settled on donating the money to his church. He stashed the money in his freezer and waited.

“I wrapped that thing up in a newspaper and a plastic bag and stuck it up in the freezer behind some other stuff. Cold cash. It wasn’t in there long enough to get cold though. It might have been cool,” Cameron said.

About two hours passed and he got a call from the Hanover Sheriff’s Office alerting him that a deputy would be coming to take custody of the money, more than a grand.

“She told me they would keep the money and decide how the funds were to be used. If I had known that this was what was going to happen, You and I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. I would have donated the money to the church and been done with it. It goes into their slush fund,” Cameron said.

Now, the money is sitting in the Hanover Sheriff’s property room. It will stay there for three years and be turned over to the State Literary Fund if no one claims it. Finders are usually not keepers in Virginia. Law enforcement agencies in Hopewell, Chesterfield, Colonial Heights and Henrico all said the money will eventually be turned over to the state after a holding period. Richmond gave two different responses. The first, after a 30-day wait the finder gets the money but officials also said it’s turned over to the state. Petersburg did not respond.

All cite the Virginia Code for unclaimed property, but it’s a forced fit to apply it to private citizens finding money and turning it over to police.

“I was shocked to say the least, to say no you’re not getting the money. My concern is how many people who found money now would not turn it in,” Cameron said.

The Hanover Sheriff’s Office says the money goes to a good cause and they made every effort to find the rightful owner. They say they looked at store surveillance footage and checked with area banks.

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