Couple might keep 'cold cash'
James and Colleen Mesler, the Janesville couple who in December found a bundle of cash in their refrigerator, get to keep the thousands they found—if the rightful owner does not come forward to claim the money by Tuesday, March 11.
Janesville police informed the Meslers and the media Tuesday afternoon that their investigation showed the money was not stolen or linked to illegal drug sales.
“The money has been determined to be ‘found property’ and subject to applicable state finder statutes. The money has been returned to the bank,” police said in a release.
The Meslers published a notice Dec. 11 that they had found the money. The rightful owner has 90 days from such a published notice to claim his or her property.
If no one makes a valid claim by March 11, the money belongs to the Meslers.
“It will help so much,” Colleen, 65, said Tuesday. “I feel better. We can use it right now, but you’ve got to go through hoops.”
Jim, 55, said the money would pay bills.
“I don’t know where to start,” he said. “We got bills—as always. What’s new there? We all got bills.”
How much money—in $100, $50 and $20 bills—they actually found will be determined when M&I Bank exchanges the moldy, deteriorating bills for fresh cash from the Federal Reserve.
Besides disintegrating from mold, the money now is coated with the chemicals police used to try to find fingerprints.
Jim estimated the amount at between $10,000 and $12,000, while Janesville police put the total at $11,950 for purposes of a search warrant executed to retrieve the money from the bank.
Jim knows the stash contained at least $8,340 because that was the amount he and Colleen counted in good bills when they warmed the damp cash and separated bills with tweezers.
The former tenants of the Meslers’ apartment are defendants in cocaine-trafficking cases.
Police were investigating whether the money was from illegal drug sales, and investigators apparently did not find a positive link to such crimes.