A Columbus man was sentenced Thursday to three years in federal prison and ordered to repay more than $486,000 in unclaimed funds belonging to others that he stole from the state of Ohio through an elaborate fraud scheme.
Marcus Beatty, 55, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Columbus for stealing $486,408.55 in unclaimed funds from the state Department of Commerce’s Division of Unclaimed Funds, which was holding the funds in trust for the rightful owners.
In Ohio, when funds held in an account by a bank or other financial institution are inactive for a certain length of time, the funds legally become “unclaimed funds” and by law must be turned over to the state. The Ohio Division of Unclaimed Funds holds the money in trust, returning the money to the rightful owners who submit claim forms for their funds.
From June 2011 through at least March 2018, Beatty repeatedly filed fraudulent claims for unclaimed funds through an intricate process of identifying Ohio businesses whose registrations had been canceled, court records show.
Beatty used fraudulent paperwork to reinstate the businesses with the Ohio Secretary of State, changing the names of these companies to the names of companies for which the Division of Unclaimed Funds held unclaimed money in trust. He then filed fraudulent claims with the division to obtain the unclaimed funds.
Beatty fraudulently obtained unclaimed funds held in trust for five Ohio companies. He also filed several false claims with state agencies overseeing unclaimed funds in Alabama, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Beatty pleaded guilty in October 2022 to one count of mail fraud.
“We are grateful to both our staff who worked diligently to research and uncover the fraud and law enforcement who worked to bring this case to a resolution,” Ohio Director of Commerce Sherry Maxfield said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“There is a methodical procedure in place to process claims filed with our agency, and each step in the process is important to verifying the money is returned to its rightful owner,” Maxfield said. “This case shows those who try to recover unclaimed funds through fraud will be held accountable.”
How does the state try to find the owners of unclaimed funds, and how can I find out if they have any of my money?
The state of Ohio attempts to return funds to their rightful owners through a variety of means. A page on the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Unclaimed Funds website explains how you can search to see if you have unclaimed funds, claim them and submit a formal claim form to obtain the funds.
The division also posts legal ads annually in newspapers across the state — including The Dispatch — listing the names of people, businesses and entities in those publications’ circulation areas who have unclaimed funds.
In addition, the division also sets up kiosks at various events across the state, such as the Dispatch Home & Garden Show, where people can stop by and receive help to see if they have unclaimed funds.
In 2006, Beatty had previously been sentenced in federal court to 33 months in prison in a separate fraud scheme.