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Fame and fortune

Celebrities join ranks on state's unclaimed money list

Email|Print| Text size + By Peter J. Howe
Globe Staff / February 28, 2008

The list has the makings of an interesting dinner party.

Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramírez. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Hunk Hollywood-star brothers Ben and Casey Affleck. Former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld and onetime acting governor Jane Swift. And always provocative Harvard Law School professor and author Alan M. Dershowitz.

They are among the 40,000 new names on the state treasurer's latest unclaimed money list, which is coming out Sunday. It is a roster of people who have dormant bank or brokerage accounts, uncashed checks, or other assets that have generally lingered for three years and are now, by state law, in the custody of the state treasurer and receiver general.

More than $30 million in newly abandoned property is waiting to be claimed by rightful owners, Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill said yesterday.

The new list includes 17 accounts worth more than $100,000, more than 1,500 owners of stock, and 1,305 abandoned safe-deposit boxes, Cahill said. Some institutions and businesses - including Amherst College, Boston College, and the Mitt Romney For Governor campaign - also show up on the list.

For the rich and famous, the amounts are often too piddling to bother with. There's $3.32 waiting for Cambridge native Ben Affleck and two accounts worth $1.29 and $21.30 for his Oscar-nominated brother, Casey, according to Francy Ronayne, Cahill's spokeswoman.

Ramírez, in contrast, has $10,000 in unclaimed money under Cahill's control, Ronayne said. She said she was not able to specify whether it is an uncashed check or a bank account.

Given that Ramírez gets paid $20 million a year for 162 games, that's $3,717 short of what he makes on average in a single inning of regular-season baseball.

John Blake, Sox spokesman, said last night that he could not reach Ramírez. The World Series champions flew yesterday from spring training in Florida to visit President Bush at the White House and patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Manny's not on the trip; I'm not going to be able to get an answer on this," Blake said.

Weld, who served as governor from 1991 to mid-1997, is listed on the findmassmoney.com website as having an undisclosed amount of more than $100 owed him. To protect people's privacy, the site does not give more details.

Legendary for spicing his gubernatorial rhetoric with ultraobscure references, the millionaire lawyer and financier did not disappoint yesterday when asked to comment on what he may have left behind when he moved from his Cambridge home to New York.

"What!!??" Weld said in an e-mail dictated to his secretary. "Send all funds to poste restante, New York City." That's French for general delivery mail held at the post office for itinerant recipients to pick up at the counter.

Rice has $858 waiting for her in Cahill's office, Ronayne said. The secretary was in Japan yesterday, meeting with diplomats in hope of persuading North Korea to drop its development of nuclear bombs. She was not available to comment on the origins of her bounty in Massachusetts.

"It would be very difficult to have the opportunity to ask her that question," was the response from a State Department spokeswoman, speaking under the usual condition of anonymity.

Dershowitz said he is appalled that "a big bank" - he refused to name it - decided that a college fund he set up for his daughter was abandoned because he did not touch it for a few years. "The state just took it, and the bank never notified us, which is an outrage," Dershowitz said.

He did not want to talk numbers. The treasurer's site shows he has four accounts on the unclaimed property list, two worth more than $100 each. Ronayne said the newest unclaimed Dershowitz account totals $333.

Dershowitz expressed annoyance that he is being forced to put in a claim with Cahill's office. Noting that he is legendary for getting mail from "every prisoner in America" and from people who address envelopes with nothing more than "[expletive] professor, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA," Dershowitz said, "I'm the easiest guy in the world to find."

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