A CONTRACTOR thought he had hit the jackpot when he found a whopping £150,000 hidden behind a bathroom wall – but it ended up being a nightmare.
Bob Kitts was renovating the bathroom of an old home near Lake Erie, Cleveland when he found two green locked boxes suspended by a wire below the medicine cabinet.
Inside he found envelopes with a return address for the P. Dunne News Agency.
"I ripped the corner off of one," Mr Kitts said in a deposition in a lawsuit filed by Mr Dunne’s estate, according to the New York Times.
"I saw a 50 and got a little dizzy.”
It turns out the envelopes contained £124,000 and a cardboard box had another £26,000.
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But the discovery of the rare late-1920s bills turned into a living nightmare for Mr Kitts as he and the homeowner, Amanda Reece, couldn't decide on how to split the money.
She offered to give him 10 per cent of the cash, but he wanted 40 per cent – and things soon became difficult.
The Dunne estate also later sued, with 21 heirs claiming the rights to the money.
Yet there wasn't much left to claim.
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Ms Reece testified she had spent about £11,000 on a luxury trip to Hawaii with her mum and she had also sold some of the bills on eBay and to a coin dealer.
She also claimed about £47,000 was stolen from a shoe box in her wardrobe – although she said she never reported the incident to the cops.
Things became even worse after Mr Kitts said Ms Reece accused him of stealing the money.
She allegedly started leaving him threatening phone messages as the situation turned nasty.
Finally, Ms Reece dropped her claim to the remaining £20,000 and the courts gave Mr Kitts 13.7 per cent and the rest to Mr Dunne’s 21 heirs.
Cuyahoga County probate magistrate, Charles Brown, said the cash in the envelopes belonged to the heirs as they were labelled with Mr Dunne's name.
And he said the cash in the cardboard box should belong to Ms Reece as the homeowner – but she dropped her claim, so Mr Kitts could take the money as he found it.
I was not the bad guy that everybody made me out to be
Ms Reece, a mortgage loan officer, testified in a deposition that she had been struggling with debt problems at the time.
Gid Marcinkevicius, a lawyer who represented the Dunne estate, said: “I called it the greed case.
"If these two individuals had sat down and resolved their disputes and divided the money, the heirs would have had no knowledge of it.
"Because they were not able to sit down and divide it in a rational way, they both lost."
Mr Kitts claimed he lost a lot of business at the time because he was portrayed as greedy.
“I was not the bad guy that everybody made me out to be," he said.
"I didn’t do anything wrong. It was a neat experience, something that won't happen again.
"In that regard, it was pretty fascinating; seeing that amount of money in front of you was breathtaking.
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"In that regard, I don't regret it.
"The threats and all — that's the part that makes you wish it never happened."
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