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The big fix: 21-year-old $102,817.90 check still valid!

Charles LavedPeterlLas Vegas earlier this year.

Charles and Laveda Peterlin in Las Vegas earlier this year.

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Updated: August 14, 2012 6:26AM

Dear Fixer: I recently found an old bank check from 1991 that is still valid, according to the automated phone number on the back of the check.

I tried depositing the check in my bank, but they returned it saying they wanted me to have the check re-issued.

The issuing bank was The Steel City National Bank, which no longer exists but seems to be connected to Citibank.

At the Citibank branch, they said they could not find an issuing bank to have it reissued, and they could not do it themselves because it was more than $100,000. Calling CitiBank’s customer service got me similar answers.

Nobody seems to know how to process this check — or be able to find a bank that can re-issue the check.

Laveda Peterlin, Evergreen Park

Dear Laveda: Well, this was quite the mystery. But first — we have to say, if The Fixer lost $20, it would be enough to ruin our day. How does someone misplace more than a hundred grand?

You told us that after your ex-husband Charles — with whom you maintained a friendly relationship — passed away in March, you found an envelope at his home that contained receipts from several CDs he apparently had cashed in when you two were still married. Tucked behind those receipts was a check from 1991 made out to “Charles Peterlin or Laveda Peterlin” from The Steel City National Bank of Chicago. The amount: $102,817.90.

Besides your unsuccessful attempt to cash the check at your bank, you also tried the old Illinois Cash Dash program for unclaimed funds, with no luck. (More on that in a sec.)

Some small type on the check read: “Citibank New York State, Buffalo, N.Y.,” so The Fixer thought Citibank might give us some leads. But it turns out Citi’s only involvement was providing a check issuance service to The Steel City National Bank. And while their researchers in San Antonio, Texas, looked high and low, they could not find any unclaimed funds. They wondered if Charles had simply stopped that check and got a new one.

But you remembered a conversation years ago, in which Charles had confided to you that he’d lost a pretty large sum of money. You remembered how upset he was, so you asked us to keep searching.

So we asked Matt Butterfield, communications director for Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, if the treasurer’s office could do some sleuthing.

Using a scanned copy of the check, with the check number and amount, they were able to locate the $102K in less than a day!

It turns out that unlike the vast majority of funds that are turned over to the state, for some reason these funds were not tagged with Charles’ or your name, but only the check number and amount, Butterfield said. That’s why it didn’t turn up in your initial online search. With the info you provided, they were able to find your family’s missing dough.

A claim still needs to be submitted to the state to collect, but the money is there.

How to find your money

And, dear readers, a lot of other money is there, too. The Treasurer’s Office says it has $1.5 billion (yes, billion) in unclaimed funds.

They estimate that one in eight Illinois residents has unclaimed money that is just waiting to be found.

The Treasurer’s Office recently revamped the old “Cash Dash” program and replaced it with a new website called I-Cash ( They’ve also recently added about 780,000 new names to their database — names from records before 1992.

State Treasurer Rutherford said last year his office returned $101,679,655. Illinoisans “have nothing to lose, and everything to gain” by checking the website, Rutherford says — and The Fixer wholeheartedly agrees.

The unclaimed money includes cash from inactive savings and checking accounts; unpaid wages or commissions; stocks, bonds and mutual funds; money orders and bill overpayments; and paid-up life insurance policies — not to mention the contents of old safe-deposit boxes.

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