New Jersey, like many other states, maintains a provision for paying over money or property to the State if it remains unclaimed for a period of time. Although the time can differ based upon the type of property, the limitation period can be as short as one year or as long as 20 years.
The technical term is “escheat”. This basically means that the property would revert to the State, in this case the State of New Jersey.
When you first take a look at the unclaimed property statute you would assume that it is effectively a “grab” by the State of New Jersey of unclaimed property. In fact, the statute was originally intended to, and continues to attempt to, protect the true owners of the property. After the property is turned over to the State, the State lists the property publicly to determine the true owner. If the property remains with the holder, not the State, there does not appear to be a strong incentive for the holder to find the actual owner and return the property.
You may be familiar with the unclaimed property provisions if you look online or at the lengthy advertisements in the newspaper listing all sorts of property by name and address. Who amongst us has not looked for our own name in the listing hoping to find money that is owed to us!
The question then becomes, what might this have to do with the False Claims Act?
A number of years ago, a Credit Union was alleged to have violated a statute similar to New Jersey’s. The Credit Union had hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage accounts that had not been properly handled. The individual that provided the information to the State was awarded nearly $150,000.00.
The Unclaimed Property Act covers things like actual money, casino chips, rental deposits, uncashed checks, utility deposits, and annuity or life insurance policy proceeds. If the company or business that you work for has not provided information to the State of New Jersey regarding property they are holding, you may have information that can be pursued under New Jersey’s False Claims Act.