Father and Son Charged with Stealing $1.6 Million in Unclaimed Funds from Dozens of Californians

Friday, July 30, 2010
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO — Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that his office has brought formal charges against a father and son who promised to recover unclaimed funds for dozens of citizens and then “surreptitiously stole” more than $1.6 million from them, using forged documents and fictitious mailing addresses.

“This larcenous pair scoured the Controller’s database of individuals with unclaimed property, contacted many of them, and promised to help recover their assets,” Brown said. “Instead, employing forgery and fraud, they surreptitiously stole more than $1.6 million.”

Thomas Rodine, 56, of Carmichael and Dustin Rodine, 28, of Citrus Heights were arraigned today, following their arrest on July 23. Each is charged with three counts of embezzlement and one count of submitting fraudulent claims to the state Controller. Both face a maximum of seven years, six months in prison. To date, victims have been repaid more than $700,000 and full restitution is expected.

Agents in Brown’s Special Crimes Unit initiated an investigation into the father and son duo at the request of Controller John Chiang in January, after the Controller’s internal audit identified fraud.

Brown’s investigation found that from 2007 to 2009, Thomas and Dustin Rodine used their Carmichael-based asset and heir location business, Rodco & Associates, to locate and solicit individuals with assets in the Controller’s unclaimed property fund.

The scheme worked like this: After claimants agreed to have Rodco & Associates seek to recover their funds, the Rodines forged documents to reroute the recovered assets to a network of post office boxes they controlled. The Rodines also forged claim documents to collect funds that were never disclosed to claimants. From the pool of money they collected, the Rodines withheld unauthorized fees and claims totaling $1.675 million.

The thefts ranged from just over $100 to more than $300,000 and involved funds from personal bank accounts, foundation trusts, stocks and other assets in the Controller’s unclaimed property fund. Investigators located victims in cities throughout California, including Alpine, Chico, Los Angeles, Nevada City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma and a number of other cities.

After the initial internal audit by the Controller, payment of all claims initiated by Rodco & Associates was halted.

“My office has worked hard to make it easier for Californians to find and claim their lost property, whether it is cash, stocks, valuable jewelry or family photos and mementos that simply are irreplaceable,” said Controller John Chiang. “Californians need to know that they can claim their property directly from my office for free. I encourage them to do so.”

Following execution of the search warrant, Rodco & Associates established a trust account to repay defrauded claimants. To date, the company has repaid more than $700,000 and authorities expect full restitution for defrauded victims.

The State of California is currently in possession of more than $5.7 billion in unclaimed property belonging to some 11.6 million individuals and organizations.

This property is acquired through California’s Unclaimed Property Law, which requires “holders” such as corporations, business associations, financial institutions, and insurance companies to report annually and deliver property to the Controller after there has been no customer contact for three years. Often, the owner forgets the account exists, moves and does not leave a forwarding address or the forwarding order expires. In some cases, the owner dies, and the heirs have no knowledge of the property.

The Controller allows claimants to recover property directly, without the use of so-called “asset locators” or other third parties. To find out if you have unclaimed property and for instructions on how to claim it, visit: www.ClaimIt.ca.gov.

A copy of the complaint, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, is attached.

# # #
PDF icon n1964_rodine_complaint.pdf268.87 KB