Monday, March 10, 2008
Help Me Howard: Missing Money
When she was two years old, she was in an accident. Fortunately for her, the company gave her nearly $100,000 to compensate her for her pain and suffering, promising that her money would be handed to her when she turned 18. Unfortunately, when she reached that age, her money had disappeared. Did it ever exist? Can it ever be found? Let's bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Sabrina Hoffman is a healthy, happy 21-year-old single mom.
Sabrina Hoffman: "All the little cute things that he does every day, it makes it worth like going through all the hard stuff, but it's the best thing that happened to me."
And hopefully Adriel will never have to endure what she did when she was a toddler.
Sabrina Hoffman: "And I took something off the shelf, and I opened it, and I got it on me."
Sabrina was two when her family took her into a Scotties Hardware store in the Florida Keys. No one saw her grab a bottle of chemicals and spill it on herself.
Sabrina Hoffman: "It made my legs swell up and my groin area, it inflamed it, and I got a severe reaction, and I don't really know what else happened because I don't remember it at all."
As these old court documents show, Sabrina's family sued. In August 1989, the case was settled. Sabrina was to be paid $97,000 beginning on her 18th birthday.
Sabrina Hoffman: "The money was supposed to be deposited into a trust fund."
When Sabrina turned 18, she tried to collect the money and the trouble started.
Sabrina Hoffman: "Since I didn't have any of the paperwork, and my mom didn't have any of the paperwork, I tried the Clerk of Courts online."
The court records didn't show where the money was, so she contacted the lawyer who had handled her case.
Sabrina Hoffman: "And he pretty much told me that, since he's not practicing law anymore, and he doesn't have any of the paperwork, there's nothing he can do for me."
She then called every bank in the Keys looking for her trust fund. Nothing. Then, another lawyer offered to check into it.
Sabrina Hoffman: "And he said that he tried everything he could, and there's nothing else he could do for me."
With the money missing, Sabrina was left with one fear, her father, who disappeared years ago, might have tapped into the account.
Sabrina Hoffman: "If my biological father took the money, you know, I'll be very upset because I don't talk with him at all."
Getting that money would have been a dream come true for Sabrina. Finding out it's gone would devastate her.
Sabrina Hoffman: "It would give me a lot of hope for my future and making my son's future and making things happen for us that we need and just, it would help me change my life around."
But, after searching for four years, after being told time and time again the money didn't exist, before giving up, Sabrina decided to make one last call.
Sabrina Hoffman: "I didn't know where else to turn to. I didn't know what else to do, so I called Help Me Howard."
Well, first how does Sabrina find the money, and, if someone took it, can she get it back, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "I have read the court settlement. The way it was set up, no one could get that money except for Sabrina. So, Patrick, we need to get to work and somehow track it down."
According to the settlement documents, the money was supposed to be kept by an insurance company called USF & G. In 2001, they were acquired by old Mutual Financial Network. Over the course of a couple of days, I spoke with their people. Sabrina was looking for them. Turns out they were looking for Sabrina.
Sabrina Hoffman: "It's $97,000. I get like $8,100 every year on my birthday until 2015, so what a birthday present."
We had found Sabrina's money.
Sabrina Hoffman: "I couldn't believe it at first because when they called it was just nonchalant because, 'We have had it here since 2004,' and to me that's a lot money, so I was ecstatic."
Sabrina was told within a week she will get the four checks that have been sitting there since 2004 and $32,000 immediately. The rest of the $97,000 over the next 8 years, much needed money for this single mom.
Sabrina Hoffman: "It's good for my son because I can put some money away for him, let it collect some interest, so it's good stuff, makes me really happy."
She is happy and makes us happy.
Sabrina Hoffman: "You guys made it look easy. I am really, really thankful."
Patrick Fraser: "Actually, finding her $97,000 was not that hard at all. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. By the way, if you are giving someone money or set to get money, make a few copies of the documents and give them to different people in case you lose your copy or pass away.
Stuck with a mystery wrapped in a riddle? Find it's not a thriller to you? Contact us, we'll unlock your good fortune. Odds of us finding another $97,000? I wouldn't bet on it.
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Email: helpmehoward@wsvn (please include your contact number when emailing)