SPRINGFIELD — The total amount of cash and assets returned to Illinoisans through the state treasurer’s office last year increased by 27 percent over 2011.

The total amount in unclaimed property returned in 2012 was $129 million, up from $101 million in 2011, a total increase of $28 million.

Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said it is a “very good business success story” and credited the I-Cash program, through which the division provides state residents with their unclaimed property and assets.

“It’s pretty big when you can put $129 million back in the economy of Illinois without raising taxes,” Rutherford said Wednesday.

Most of the state’s tangible unclaimed property is held in the treasurer’s vault at the Illinois State Capitol. It has been used to store the state’s cash, bonds and securities for more than 100 years. The vault can hold up to 100,000 items in unclaimed property and is close to being at maximum capacity.

“While the money is sitting with me, it draws interest, which pays for the operations, which goes to general revenue. But that’s not the reason that it’s there” Rutherford added. “It’s there because we can’t find the owners. It’s my job to help find them.“

The state currently has $1.7 billion in cash and the contents from Illinois bank safe deposit boxes that have been abandoned for at least five years.

Rutherford said some of the items within the vault that come out of lock boxes range from coin collections and baseball cards to Beanie Babies.

Other more rare items returned this year included a Purple Heart, which was given to a woman whose father had passed away. Another was a Bronze Star Medal returned to a southern Illinoisan man.

In Illinois, one in eight people has an asset to be claimed in the I-Cash database, according to the program website.

The I-Cash program’s marketing and supporting costs are not paid for with tax dollars. The program is funded through the Unclaimed Property Trust Fund. Formerly called “Cash Dash,” the program was established in 1999.

Amounts returned in 2012 ranged from a couple of dollars to an individual claim of $9 million, which was an unclaimed property return from Tenneco.

Mike Alzamora, Tenneco spokesman, said after Tenneco purchased the Pullman Co., it took the steps to reclaim the funds, but found out about the return through other means than I-Cash.

“These were assets that belonged to the Pullman Co., and we weren’t aware of them when we purchased the company, and Tenneco came to find out later that they existed,” Alzamora said.

Rutherford added that individuals should remember to search the database for any maiden names and family estate heirs’ names, in addition to their own names.

“You won’t know if you’ve got something unless you search your name and your relatives’ names,” he said.

On the web

For more information on the I-Cash program or to search the database, visit icash.illinois.gov.

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