Delayed Response in Moldy Money Swap is Water Under the Bridge

Matt Calamia
Times Beacon Record Newspapers: Village Beacon Record

An elderly couple recently had the opportunity to reclaim part of their life savings after a leak in their basement, where the cash was kept in a strong box, left tens of thousands of dollars moldy.

"It was kind of — it looked like it was dirty," said Donna DeSantis, the daughter of the Ridge couple who kept $37,000 locked up in their basement. She said the box was flooded when her parents' water meter broke. "The cashbox got wet, but no one ever thought anything would happen."

DeSantis said she and her parents, who wished to remain anonymous, took the money to several banks to exchange it but were turned away. Eventually, DeSantis and her family traveled to Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Treasury last May to swap out the moldy bills that were rendered unusable.

The family was told the process would take about six months, but when autumn came and went without a check in the mail, DeSantis began to worry. "I started to get really crazy because I thought, 'Who did we give this money to?'" DeSantis recalled.

Upon the advice of a family friend, DeSantis contacted Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in March to help resolve the situation. Oliver Longwell, a spokesman for the congressman, said they received word April 4 that the couple would be reimbursed within several weeks.

A letter from Leonard Olijar of the Department of the Treasury provided confirmation.

In a statement, Bishop said, "This particular case is fairly unique among the 15,000 cases my office has closed favorably since 2003, but it just goes to show that we will step in on your behalf when you are not receiving the benefits or consideration you deserve from a federal agency, be it the Veterans Administration, Medicare, Social Security or, in this case, the Treasury Department."

DeSantis said she was pleased by the speed with which the issue was cleared up once Bishop's office got involved.

"As soon [as we contacted him], it was resolved," DeSantis said. "It was great. This is what we should have been doing six months ago."