Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the filing of an agreement with a Washington "unclaimed asset" recovery business and its Portland owner who allegedly obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of customers all over the country but failed to deliver most of what was collected. Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed in Marion County Circuit Court are Donald Ray Cooley, Jr. of Portland and his business Titan Asset Recovery, Inc., currently located in Vancouver, Washington. No violation of law was admitted.
"Asset recovery businesses have increased in number over the last five years but, unfortunately, so has the amount of fraudulent activity associated with that industry," Myers said. "Because many of these operations are outright scams, it is extremely important that Oregonians know the process used by these 'money finders' and how to check them out before signing on the dotted line."
Oregon Department of Justice investigators received 15 complaints from Titan Asset Recovery customers over the last six months containing copies of agreements to collect lost, misplaced or unknown assets in exchange for a percentage of the recovery. Most of the "found" assets were in the form of money and most customers never received their share of more than $241,000 in assets.
Under the agreement, Cooley and his company are permanently prevented from future operations of an "asset finder" business in Oregon but are allowed to "wind-down" current operations with existing customers only. The company can not make new agreements of any kind.
Cooley and his company also must pay restitution owed to customers plus 10 percent interest over the next 10 months. The first payment must equal 20 percent of the $241,803 owed consumers. A $32,000 payment owed to the Justice Consumer Protection and Education Fund has been suspended but could be reinstated if the company misses any consumer payments or fails to comply with any part of the court order.
In addition to providing restitution, the respondents must comply with Oregon's consumer protection laws and, for the next five years, inform Justice, in writing, of any new business in which they are involved.
Oregonians wanting to know if they have "unclaimed funds" being held in their name may check for themselves without contracting with a fee-based "asset finder." Businesses, public agencies and organizations holding assets for a person or entity that can't be found are required by law to file a report with the Unclaimed Property Section of the Department of State Lands each fall and pay or deliver to DSL all unclaimed assets.
According to DSL, millions of dollars in unclaimed assets and property are being held by the agency as it tries to reunite as many people as possible with their money. In 2005, $38 million was received by the agency, and $10.5 million was returned to rightful owners.
DSL holds unclaimed consumer assets such as savings or checking accounts, uncashed payroll or dividend checks, old utility deposits, stocks and bonds, safe deposit box contents or insurance proceeds or refunds. As the agency searches for rightful owners or heirs, unclaimed money is held in the Common School Fund indefinitely with fund earnings being sent to Oregon's 198 K-12 public school districts every six months. Nearly $43 million was distributed from 2005 earnings.
Oregonians can determine if DSL is holding funds for them by inquiring online at www.oregonstatelands.us and clicking on "Unclaimed Property." Consumers without Internet access should contact their local public library or community college for assistance. National searches may be done online at www.missingmoney.com.
Consumers wanting more information on this case and consumer protection in Oregon may contact the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Copies of the DSL "unclaimed property" brochure can be requested on the AG's hotline or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) email@example.com