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$1.5 million goes into public education thanks to CFO Jeff Atwater’s unclaimed property auction

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

More than $1.5 million was raised for Florida’s public schools during the 2015 unclaimed property auction held last Saturday in Jacksonville.

According to a release from Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater Tuesday, the auction was the second-highest-yielding auction ever, trailing only behind an auction in Fort Lauderdale two years ago that yielded $1.7 million.

This year’s auction included more than 50,000 items from abandoned safe deposit boxes. Funds from the contents of those boxes are held in a public education trust fund where they “support the greater good until claimed.”

Some of the highest-grossing individual items included a 4-carat asscher-cut diamond ring set in platinum that sold for $100,000 and an 11.8-carat men’s diamond ring set in 18k gold that sold for $70,000.

Despite being released, owners of the unclaimed property can still claim the proceeds from their property at any time at no cost.

To find out if you or any of your departed family have any unclaimed property, a database is set up to search for funds or items at Simply enter information into the required fields and the database will populate a results page indicating what if any accounts are available in that name.

The name of the database website is appropriate considering most people who have unclaimed property most likely don’t know it. For example, this reporter tested out the database only to find I have a paycheck from a previous employer dating back several years. I was able to fill out a simple form claiming the check.

Once that step is taken, the state will email or send a claim form to be filled out and returned to the state. That form requires a copy of a valid government-issued ID as well as any other information proving identity. In the case of a person whose name has changed, proof of that name change like a marriage certificate or divorce decree is needed.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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