A father and son have been charged in California with stealing more than $1.6 million in unclaimed funds from consumers who hired them to help collect money.

Using forged documents and fictitious mailing addresses, the pair managed to steal from consumers they had reached out to and offered to help through their asset and heir location business, Rodco & Associates, according to the office of California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown.

Thomas Rodine, 56, of Carmichael and Dustin Rodine, 28, of Citrus Heights were arraigned on Friday and charged with three counts of embezzlement and one of submitting fraudulent claims to the state Controller. They face a maximum of seven-and-a-half years in prison.
"This larcenous pair scoured the Controller's database of individuals with unclaimed property, contacted many of them, and promised to help recover their assets," the attorney general's office said in a news release. "Instead, employing forgery and fraud, they surreptitiously stole more than $1.6 million."

The investigation began after the fraud was identified fraud in an internal audit. The state then halted any payment of claims.
From 2007 to 2009, according to the state, the Rodines used their business to locate and solicit people who had assets in the Controller's unclaimed property fund. The pair would then forge documents to reroute the recovered assets to a network of post office boxes they controlled. Documents were also forged to collect money that clients did not know about.

The Rodines were able to collect a total of $1.675 million with the thefts ranging from just over $100 to more than $300,000. The unclaimed funds came from personal bank accounts, foundation trusts, stocks and other assets. "Californians need to know that they can claim their property directly from my office for free," Controller John Chiang said in a statement released by the state.

Rodco & Associates have set up a trust account to repay victims. So far, it has repaid more than $700,000.

To date, the state has more than $5.7 billion in unclaimed property belonging to 11.6 million individuals and organizations.

Under California's Unclaimed Property Law, entities such as corporations, financial institutions and insurance companies must annually report and turn over property to the state that has not been claimed for three years.

No third party or so-called "asset locator" is needed to recover unclaimed property. WalletPop has more information on finding lost money or unclaimed property. California residents can also check www.Claimit.ca.gov for help with claiming property.

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