ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The 7-pound gold bar that is among the unclaimed property the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department plans to auction next week belongs to the surviving family members of a Russian immigrant, according to an Albuquerque attorney.
Jennifer Noya, who is representing the family, told television station KRQE (http://bit.ly/13sezib ) that finding the gold bar appeared to be a lost cause until one of the family members, Sonya Burke, spotted it during a television newscast.
Burke said she remembers playing with bar as a child and that her grandfather had used it as a door stop in his Manhattan apartment.
“I lugged it around everywhere,” Burke said. “I just remember playing with it, picking it up to see how tough I was because it was heavy.”
The bar is now valued at around $113,000 and has attracted interest from a number of potential bidders. State officials said the family will have to file a claim and only if the claim proves ownership, can the bar be returned.
Burke’s story starts with her grandfather, Russian immigrant Seymour Mann.
When Mann died of a heart attack in 1989, the family says the gold bar went to his daughter, Albuquerque attorney Lisa Mann, who put it in a safe deposit box at United New Mexico Bank. A gold bar at United New Mexico Bank is mentioned in Mann’s divorce paperwork in the late 1990s.
Lisa Mann died of breast cancer in February, and Noya, in charge of managing Mann’s estate, went looking for the gold bar.
United New Mexico Bank was bought out by Norwest in 1994, which in turn merged with Wells Fargo a few years after that. Noya said the bank couldn’t find a record of Mann owning a box although the key appeared to fit in one of the boxes.
It was the bank that suggested checking with the state’s Unclaimed Property Office, which Noya said she did in April. However, Unclaimed Property supervisor Stephanie Dennis wrote in an email that she was unable to find anything on a safe deposit box.
State officials did say Mann had about $4,000 in other unclaimed property.
Noya said she called the Unclaimed Property office again on Friday but was told she could just bid for the bar at auction. Noya said she was horrified by the response.
Taxation and Revenue Department spokesman S.U. Mahesh said he was unaware if that comment was made but emphasized that anyone, including the Burkes, can still file a claim for the gold bar or any of the other unclaimed items up for auction.
After the items are sold, owners can still claim part of the proceeds provided that they could show proof of ownership.
Mahesh added that no formal claim had been made for the gold bar as of Friday.
Burke said she doesn’t want the gold bar for the money.
“It’s about the fact that this is something that belongs to my family,” she said.
The auction is scheduled for July 27 at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Bids can be submitted online at www.bentleysauction.com.