inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

PA Treasury Sets New Record for Unclaimed Property Auction Proceeds

(From a press release)

Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced today that Treasury’s fall unclaimed property auction brought in more than $298,000, the most ever generated by an unclaimed property auction in Pennsylvania. All proceeds are carefully logged by Treasury and will remain available for the rightful owners to claim no matter how much time passes.

“This is outstanding news, and we’re very pleased that the auction generated such an incredible result,” Treasurer Garrity said. “We work for at least three years to find the rightful owners of every item that comes to Treasury’s vault. But eventually, we do have to auction items to make room for incoming property. All auction proceeds remain at Treasury for a rightful owner to claim anytime – whether that’s tomorrow, a few months from now, or many years down the road.”

More than 4,200 items were sold during the auction that took place online on October 25 and 26, 2023. Treasury partners with Pook & Pook, Inc., of Downingtown for auctioneer and appraisal services.

“This was another tremendously successful collaboration with the Pennsylvania Treasury,” President of Pook & Pook Deidre Pook Magarelli said. “I believe this was our biggest Coins & Jewelry auction to date, and strong prices were achieved across the board in all categories. I’m continually impressed with the stellar effort the Pennsylvania Treasury puts forth into reuniting unclaimed property with its original owners, and, when that is not possible, making sure that monetary compensation for that unclaimed property is available to those individuals in perpetuity. It’s a huge undertaking, and Pook & Pook appreciates playing a part in this important process. We look forward to our next collaboration, a Coins & Jewelry auction scheduled for March 27, 2024.”

The highest selling price of a Treasury item was $27,000 for a collection of 25 early baseball tobacco cards, including Cy Young, Pennsylvania’s own Christy Mathewson and other Hall of Famers. Other high-price items included:

  • US Proof Set of collectible coins sold for $7,500
  • Two Platinum and diamond engagement rings sold for $6,500 each
  • 14K white gold ring with a 3.6 carat pear-shaped diamond sold for $4,400
  • Vietnamese gold bars sold for $2,200
  • $20 Gold St. Gaudens Double Eagle coin sold for $1,800

Treasury expects to net $298,029.60 after Pook & Pook receives its 12 percent commission of the full auction total of $338,670.00. The profits from the auction were more than $60,000 over the high estimate.

Items that are not sold at auction, or those not paid for by a winning bidder, are returned to Treasury to be listed in future auctions.

Treasury receives unclaimed property from businesses if the property has been dormant for three years. Tangible property, most often the contents of forgotten about safe deposit boxes, is stored in Treasury’s vault for another three years while Treasury tries to find the rightful owners. Treasury never auctions military decorations or memorabilia.

More than $4.5 billion in unclaimed property is available to be claimed. More than one in ten Pennsylvanians is owed unclaimed property, and the average claim is worth about $1,600.

To learn more about unclaimed property or to search Treasury’s database.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal

Treasurer Garrity, Sen. Hutchinson, Rep. Briggs Back Bill to Reform the Board of Finance & Revenue

(From a press release)

Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity, Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Butler/Clarion/Erie) and Rep. Tim Briggs (D-King of Prussia)  announced bipartisan, pro-taxpayer legislation to streamline and improve the process of resolving disputes with the Department of Revenue (DOR).

The legislation, to be introduced this month, will allow the Board of Finance & Revenue (BF&R) to accept late-filed applications in certain circumstances and create a new settlement process for taxpayers as an alternative to the formal and lengthy court appeals process. The BF&R handles taxpayer appeals involving Pennsylvania’s Department of Revenue.

The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the NFIB, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), and the Pennsylvania Society of Enrolled Agents.

“Far too many Pennsylvania taxpayers have found themselves stuck in an unforgiving, bureaucratic tax appeal process – and it’s time for us to give them a way out,”  Garrity said. “Some of the current rules are inflexible for no good reason. The legislation being introduced by Sen. Hutchinson and Rep. Briggs will result in a process that’s speedier and far less burdensome. This will be a huge step forward for taxpayers.”

“This legislation is a taxpayer protection proposal, pure and simple,” Hutchinson said. “Sometimes our state’s tax collection agency gets a little overzealous in how it interprets applicable law. Our bill gives taxpayers more time and options when responding to assessments by the Department of Revenue. In fact, earlier this month I spoke with a small business owner from Oil City who would have likely benefited from the increased flexibility that this proposal would give to BF&R. Instead, he was stuck with a heavy-handed and, I believe, unfair decision by the Department of Revenue.”

“For far too long, many of us in the Legislature have heard from constituents who get caught in the tax appeals process,” Briggs said. “These bipartisan reforms will not only help taxpayers amicably and expeditiously resolve tax disputes but will also benefit the commonwealth by resolving tax issues sooner, collecting tax liabilities quicker and directing valuable resources towards more complex cases.”

“The Pennsylvania Chamber advocates for tax reforms that embody the principles of competitiveness, predictability, fairness, and simplicity,” said Luke Bernstein, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “This bipartisan proposal will make needed reforms to the tax appeals process and lead to a quicker and fairer resolution to disputes, which is in the best interest of taxpayers and the Commonwealth. We thank Treasurer Garrity, Senator Hutchinson, and Representative Briggs for their leadership on this important legislation.”

“NFIB is happy to see this bipartisan proposal take shape,” said Greg Moreland, NFIB State Director. “Far too often small business owners find themselves involved in complicated bureaucratic processes which take time, energy, and money away from their core business. NFIB thanks Senator Hutchinson, Representative Briggs, and Treasurer Garrity for this thoughtful proposal.”

“PICPA appreciates the opportunity to work with the team at Treasury and BF&R on this important, taxpayer-friendly legislative initiative,” said Jennifer Cryder, CPA, CEO of PICPA. “I also want to thank the members of the PICPA State Taxation Steering Committee for their effort to advance this initiative. We believe this legislation will help taxpayers who may not have a professional tax adviser by helping them get a more rapid settlement to their case.”

“We welcome the fact that Treasurer Garrity, Sen. Hutchinson and Rep. Briggs listened to the small business community, and acted on our concerns,” said Warren Hudak, President of the Pennsylvania Society of Enrolled Agents. “This kind of certainty will allow us to serve our clients better and work to come to quick resolution on sometimes very complicated matters.”

Taxpayers who disagree with a final decision made by DOR currently have a strict 60-day deadline to appeal the decision to BF&R. That often leads to cases being dismissed on a technicality rather than being decided on the merits. The proposed legislation allows BF&R to accept late-filed applications if good cause is shown by the taxpayer and the reason permitting the late-filed appeal is agreed to by any other party.

This legislation also empowers BF&R to create a formal settlement process, which will allow more tax disputes to be resolved without a final Board decision – thus reducing litigation costs for taxpayers. Under current law, BF&R has no authority to direct a settlement process.

BF&R receives approximately 4,200 appeals annually. The Board must resolve each appeal within six months of its filing; otherwise, the underlying DOR decision is upheld. Currently, only about 13% of eligible appeals are resolved through settlement prior to an appeal before the Commonwealth Court.

BF&R is an independent administrative tax tribunal responsible for the second and final level of administrative appeal (with minor exceptions) before appealing to court. The Board consists of three members – two are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate; the third is the state Treasurer or her designee and serves as chair.

PA Treasurer Stacy Garrity Warns of New Scam

(From a press release)

Scammers are targeting Pennsylvania residents with promises of a state grant and fraudulent requests to pay taxes using gift cards.

In this scam, unsuspecting residents receive a call, an email, and/or a letter claiming to be from the Pennsylvania Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve Bank, fraudulently indicating that the recipient will be awarded grant money – but first must pay taxes. In at least one case, the recipient was told to make the supposed tax payments with gift cards.

“This is a vile and outrageous scam,” Treasurer Stacy Garrity said. “Fraudsters and scammers are despicable criminals who will stop at nothing to exploit innocent people to steal their hard-earned money. I urge everyone to stay vigilant and be extra suspicious of any communication that seems too good to be true.”

Treasury does not announce grant awards, and it does not collect taxes. In addition, Treasury will never request that a payment be made with a gift card – and neither will any other legitimate government agency.

Based on the facts currently known to Treasury, this appears to be a multi-faceted scam.

In one case, an elderly Indiana County resident was initially contacted by telephone and told that he would receive a $25,500 grant from the state – but had to pay thousands of dollars in taxes first, using gift cards. He purchased the cards, called the scammer back and provided the information needed to access the gift cards. This happened multiple times.

After receiving multiple payments, the scammer followed up with a letter via email in an attempt to steal even more money. At that point, the victim’s brother saw the letter and stepped in.

A phone number included in the letter leads to a voicemail box falsely indicating that the caller has reached an employee of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Treasury has provided information about this scam to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Those who believe they have been the victim of a scam or attempted scam should immediately report it to the Federal Trade Commission, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, and their local law enforcement agency.

If you or anyone you know has received suspicious correspondence claiming to be from the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, please contact Treasury or by calling 717-787-2465.

Attorney General Michelle Henry recently posted information to help prevent Pennsylvanians from falling prey to scammers perpetrating common holiday scams, including email and text phishing, delivery stealing, online marketplace deals, and more.

GOP Touts Mail-In Ballots; Will Its Voters Embrace Them?

To improve voter turnout, Republicans are now embracing mail-in ballots, an innovation Democrats readily adopted.

Party leaders hope to combat skepticism among the rank and file by touting mail-in voting to ensure their voters can vote no matter what happens on Election Day.

In a press phone call on Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said the new program, Bank Your Vote, is needed, using a sports analogy.

“We can all agree you don’t want your football team to start scoring in the fourth quarter and think you’re going to win the game. We all know there’s no longer just an election day. There’s an election season,” McDaniel said.

Pennsylvania GOP Chair Lawrence Tabas said the 2023 election is “critical,” with statewide judicial races and municipal and school board races.

“You have until Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. to apply for (a mail-in) ballot,” said Tabas. He said the Pennsylvania GOP has been closing the voter gap and now stands at 235,000. “We’re committed that winning in ’23 is the path to winning in ’24.”

“Bank Your Vote is a crucial step,” Tabas said.

Dave McCormick, the endorsed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said, “The stakes are high.”

“With inflation from gas to groceries, Keystone State families are suffering from high inflation of a 20 percent rise in prices under the failed leadership of (President) Joe Biden and (Sen.) Bob Casey and that’s hurting all Pennsylvanians. But it’s hurting elders on fixed incomes. It’s hurting working families. As a result of this, Pennsylvania remains in the worst half of states for unemployment rates. And this is also killing small business owners.”

Treasurer Stacy Garrity, who will be running for reelection in 2024 and was also recently endorsed by the party, also urged people to bank their votes.

It helps so “life doesn’t get in the way.”

“We also need our most reliable voters to vote before election day to help our Republican candidates know who voted,” said Garrity. That pre-voting saves campaigns money that they won’t have to spend sending out mailings and reminders, so they can use it to target infrequent voters or independent voters.

The DVJournal asked how the GOP can reassure skeptical voters that their votes are secure if they use mail-in ballots.

McDaniel said in 2022, 80,000 poll workers were recruited nationwide who were there not just on election day but throughout the voting period.

“On top of that, we have a robust team of election integrity lawyers that are being deployed to the states. Pennsylvania already has some in place that are on the ground working with the counties to make sure that we know they’re going to administer the elections and making sure that’s being done,” she said. “And we can take decisive action quickly to protect your vote.”

Echoing Garrity, she said, “We cannot afford to chase ballots all the way through Election Day…We have to get these ballots in earlier.”

Tabas said a system was in place to track mail-in ballots. If a voter contacts their county party and says they did not get their ballot or their confirmation, “We’re on top of that,” he said.

Another question asked concerned “curing” ballots or allowing voters to fix mistakes, which has differed from county to county in the past.

Tabas blamed the courts for that discrepancy and said it was important for every county to operate under the same rules.

“Pennsylvania has to be assured that there are uniform rules so that if they’re counting your ballot anywhere in the commonwealth, it will be counted on the same basis, no matter where you live. Your ZIP code shouldn’t determine how your ballot ends up getting counted.”

Asked why the party has had a “change of heart” regarding mail-in ballots, McDaniel said it was necessary to adopt them to be competitive.

“This is a 2023, 2024 strategy that’s going to go on in the future and will result in big victories for Republicans in Pennsylvania,” said Tabas.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal

 

PA Treasurer: Why Is Biden Hidin’ in Philly?

Pennsylvania is a big state with 67 counties and 12.9 million people. And state Treasurer Stacy Garrity (R) thinks President Joe Biden should see more of them.

On the day the Scranton native made his 18th trip to heavily-Democratic Philadelphia — more than half of his 27 stops to the Keystone State — Garrity told reporters Biden should get out of his partisan comfort zone in a state that is likely to be competitive yet again in the 2024 presidential campaign.

“It might be hard for him to believe, but we have 67 counties here in Pennsylvania,” quipped Garrity. “I’ve been to every one of them, and let me tell you, the problems here in our commonwealth aren’t limited to just our two southern corners.”

Biden spoke to union members and supporters at the Philly Shipyard and touted “Bidenomics,” his name for the economic policy he has pursued since taking office: Massive government spending in sectors like green technology, COVID relief, and student debt relief.

“A lot of my friends in organized labor know, when I think climate, I think jobs,” the president told the crowd. “Union workers are the best in the world.”

Garrity pointed out to the press that inflation and rising prices still vex Pennsylvania. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported prices for all items other than food and energy increased 3.8 percent last month. The food index rose 5.7 percent in June, while the energy index decreased 17 percent. In the Northeast, all indices rose. Inflation was around 1.36 percent at the end of 2020.

Garrity used those statistics to hold Biden responsible for the current state of the economy. “It’s pretty clear to me that President Biden’s radical tax and spend agenda is directly to blame,” Garrity said. “Families have paid over $10,000 since President Biden took office to afford the same goods under the [increased] cost of living. The debt levels of American families have skyrocketed.”

Biden acknowledged the economic pain remains.

“We got more work to do,” Biden admitted in Philadelphia while vowing green energy and union jobs would move the United States away from any possible recession. “But people are coming off the sidelines to work — and folks, it’s not an accident. It’s my economic plan in action. It’s Bidenomics.”

Meanwhile, Garrity said she believes Bidenomics won’t work in the short or long term. “It will take Pennsylvania families a long time to recover from ‘Bidenomics.’ The main way to make sure they do is to make sure he doesn’t return to the White House.”

Pat Poprik, Bucks County GOP chair, agrees with Garrity, noting that families “are still struggling with rising food prices across the country.”

“Just last month, the price of bread was up 11 percent and frozen vegetables up more than 17 percent,” she said. “This is on top of fuel costs that have continued to make it more expensive to run our businesses and fill our cars. While he’s in Philadelphia, I also hope the President will address the rising crime across the region, spilling into our communities from the city. In Bucks County alone, crime is up while our Democrat commissioners vote against funding additional sheriff’s deputies. We need change in Washington, and we need change here in Bucks County, and it’s so critical our voters come out this November and start to take back our county, our state, and our nation.”

Not surprisingly, area Democratic chairs are still ridin’ with Biden.

Delaware County Democrats Chair Colleen Guiney said, “President Biden has worked effectively with a divided federal government to build our economy from the ‘bottom up’ and ‘middle out.’ This strategy creates opportunities for the majority of Americans rather than the failed ‘trickle down’ plans that benefited the wealthiest Americans.

“Despite world market instability, inflation, and a war in Europe, President Biden has ensured investments in our economy, infrastructure, and environment. These efforts have brought down inflation in the U.S. more rapidly than our neighbors and European allies. I look forward to supporting President Biden as he continues to build a better economy nationally and right here in Delaware County.”

And Charlotte Valyo, chair of the Chester County Democrats, said, “From record job creation to successfully bringing inflation under control to supporting our union workers, President Biden took over with unprecedented economic challenges and has led an American comeback that has defied expectations. People in Chester County and across Pennsylvania have seen firsthand how things improved since President Biden took office, and we are always proud to welcome him back to the commonwealth.”

But the Bidenomics catchphrase doesn’t appear to be tracking well for the president going into the second half of 2023. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found just 37 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy. His approval rating hung around 38 percent, as well. However, Biden could win a 2024 rematch against former president Donald Trump. The Quinnipiac poll discovered Biden led Trump 49-44 percent.

In Pennsylvania, things are even tighter. Trump leads Biden 47-46 in a potential rematch, according to Quinnipiac about a month ago. Registered voters found the economy the most important issue, with preserving democracy a close second.

Biden’s support in southeastern Pennsylvania may be waning. A Delaware Valley Journal/Coefficient poll of 759 likely voters revealed 59 percent of people in the region did not believe the country was on the right track. Biden’s approval rating in the Delaware Valley was 43 percent, something Republicans yearn to capitalize on.

“I’m not surprised about that poll,” Garrity commented during the conference call. “I don’t think that’s a sentiment just in Philadelphia. That seems to be a sentiment across the country. So, no surprise there.”

The poll also showed that just 33 percent of registered Democrats believe Biden should run for a second term. Almost half of respondents worried that Biden wasn’t mentally or physically capable of handling some sort of crisis as president.

Biden won about 60 percent of the vote in the region in 2020.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal

DelVal Reps Silent As Biden Admin Raises Mortgage Fees on Responsible Borrowers

Pennsylvanians with good credit will pay higher mortgage fees, while borrowers with bad credit will pay less under a new Biden administration rule. And the Delaware Valley’s congressional delegation is eerily silent on the matter.

Some Republicans and many responsible borrowers have lashed out against the policy, described by critics as income distribution applied to home ownership. Led by Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity, the top finance officials from 27 states sent a letter to the Biden administration opposing the new rule.

“For decades, Americans have been told that they will be rewarded for saving their money and building a good credit score,” they wrote. “This policy turns that time-tested principle upside down. And how will these new junk fees be used? To subsidize higher-risk borrowers by handing out better mortgage rates to people with lower credit ratings who have saved less for a down payment.”

The letter concludes, “We urge you to take immediate action to end this unconscionable policy.”

“This new policy makes it more expensive for people with good credit to buy houses – and that’s absurd,” Garrity told DVJournal. “Americans who have built a good credit score and saved enough to make a strong down payment should not be penalized and forced to pay more on their mortgage every single month. I’m proud that so many of my colleagues from across the country – representing a majority of states – have united to urge the immediate elimination of this policy.”

In Harrisburg, state Sens. Devlin Robinson (R-Allegheny) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) are seeking support from their colleagues for a resolution calling on the Biden administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to rescind a policy.

“Punishing hard-working Pennsylvanians who have good credit and are smart with their finances is simply wrong,” Robinson said. “I’m hopeful the administration and FHFA will quickly realize and rescind this harmful policy, and I’m glad so many of my Senate colleagues and constituents share this sentiment.”

“It is illogical what this policy accomplishes. You play by the rules and do things the right way, but you get penalized for it,” Phillips-Hill said. “Increased home ownership across our state would be ideal. However, this is another failed policy that dodges real problems, like how will we reduce inflation and bring down our sky-high interest rates.”

Members of Congress who oppose the rule have filed at least three bills to reverse the policy, and co-sponsors range from conservative Republicans like Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) to moderates like New York’s Rep. Patrick Lawler.

“Whether it’s student loan forgiveness or their mortgage rule, through the power of the pen, Biden and his executive agencies are attempting to bypass Congress and fundamentally change how our country operates,” said lead sponsor Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) “We should not punish individuals who have made sound financial decisions or have the government incentivize lowering credit scores.”

However, no member of the DelVal congressional delegation, including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, are on board. And none of them, including  Democratic Reps. Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon, and Chrissy Houlahan—would respond to requests for comment.

The new policy, which took effect May 1, is designed to promote social justice by reducing lending fees on borrowers with lower credit scores. Meanwhile, home buyers with a credit score over 680 will pay about $500 more per year on a $400,000 loan. That adds up to more than $14,000 throughout a 30-year mortgage.

And borrowers who put aside enough savings for a 20 percent down payment will pay the highest fees under the new Federal Housing Agency (FHFA) policy.

Under the new LLPA (Loan-Level Price Adjustment) fee schedule, the borrower with modest credit — 640 to 659 — who puts down just 5 percent would enjoy a fee drop from 2.75 percent to 1.5 percent. But a borrower with good credit (740-759) with a 20 percent down payment would see their fee double from 0.5 percent to 1 percent.

Defenders of the new Biden policy shrug off the complaints, arguing that the fee changes are modest and stretched out over time. And Biden’s FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson insisted that no subsidy is involved. Instead, it is just an update on pricing for the revenue the agency uses “to compensate [Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae] for guaranteeing borrowers’ mortgage payments, which in turn attracts investors across the globe to provide liquidity for the U.S. mortgage market and, ultimately, reduces interest rates for homeowners.”

Bruce Elmslie, chair of the University of New Hampshire economics department, said the policy “creates perverse incentives when you’re incentivizing those actors who have lower credit. And increasing the fee on a higher credit score, that’s a disincentive to people from taking the most credit-worthy actions.”

Even former Obama FHA Commissioner David Stevens told Fox Business he thinks it’s a mistake. “We can do better programs to help more minorities get into homeownership. This is not the way to do it.”

 

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal

Chester County Dumps TikTok, State Senate Committee Approves Ban

The video app TikTok, a favorite of teenagers, continues to be under fire in the Keystone State over its connections to China’s communist regime.

A state Senate committee and Chester County’s government are the latest local entities to take action. Previously, state Treasurer Stacy Garrity ordered it removed from her department’s devices while in Washington, D.C. the Biden administration recently gave federal agencies 30 days to get rid of the app.

On Monday, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee announced legislation to protect the information of Pennsylvania state government, including citizen information, by prohibiting state-owned devices from downloading and using TikTok, committee chair Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) said.

“We are talking about the potential of foreign governments having access to Americans’ personal information,” Pennycuick said. “We have many state employees who use TikTok. The opening presented to foreign bad actors to exploit this information is huge. By passing this measure, we will have blocked another potential avenue for cyber incursion and improve state government’s cyber defenses.”

Chester County’s director of information recently sent an email to employees instructing them to remove TikTok from their county equipment.

Delaware County has not taken that step.

“Delaware County has not currently taken any specific action regarding use of TikTok on county-owned phones. Internet policies are continuously under review to help ensure the continued security of the county’s networks and devices,” said Adrienne Marofsky, director of communications.

James O’Malley, a Bucks County spokesman, said, “Like countless other users of TikTok, we have watched the emerging revelations around this company with great concern. While the county uses TikTok as a platform to share information with the public, we will continue to monitor developments in the ongoing national discussion.”

Montgomery County officials did not respond when asked about their TikTok policy.

Neither did Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators, both of whom are TikTok users. Democrats Bob Casey and  John Fetterman are among just 32 of the 535 members of Congress who, according to a review by States Newsroom in January are using the app. Fetterman joined TikTok last summer, long after the company’s problematic policies were well known.

Casey and Fetterman have declined to respond to repeated requests for comment about their TikTok accounts.

Garrity has been one of the most aggressive elected officials when it comes to TikTok. “Treasury’s computer network is targeted by scammers and criminals every day,” Garrity said when she announced her agency’s ban. “TikTok presents a clear danger due to its collection of personal data and its close connection to the communist Chinese government. Banning TikTok from Treasury devices and systems is an important step in our never-ending work to ensure the safety of Pennsylvanians’ hard-earned tax dollars and other important, sensitive information entrusted to Treasury.”

A TikTok spokeswoman noted Congress passed the ban on federal devices in December but called it “little more than political theater.”

“The swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for CFIUS to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies, and we are well underway in implementing them to further secure our platform in the United States,” she said.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal

 

 U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of PA Treasury in Landmark Unclaimed Property Case

From a press release

Tuesday, the U. S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Pennsylvania Treasury Department in a landmark unclaimed property case, creating the potential return of nearly $19 million in escheated funds to Pennsylvania from Delaware.

The case, Delaware v. Pennsylvania et al, was originally filed by Pennsylvania in 2016. It was subsequently joined by 29 other states.

“This ruling means that Pennsylvania residents will have a real opportunity to reclaim millions of dollars in unclaimed property,” Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity said. “The Supreme Court rejected Delaware’s attempt to gain an unfair windfall and struck a strong blow in favor of consumers. I’m eager to get to the business of returning this money to the hardworking people it rightfully belongs to.”

The Court’s decision adopted much of the reasoning and many of the arguments advanced by Pennsylvania Treasury.

The next step is for the Special Master appointed by the Supreme Court to determine exactly how much money is owed to Pennsylvania and other states. It’s estimated that Delaware could owe as much as $400 million in escheated funds to other states – including the nearly $19 million to Pennsylvania – as unclaimed property from MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc., a provider of money transfer and bill payment services.

This is the first time in almost 30 years that the Supreme Court considered a question involving the laws governing unclaimed property.

Pennsylvania argued that uncashed “official checks” sold by MoneyGram in Pennsylvania are a form of money order. According to the Federal Disposition Act (FDA), uncashed money orders and similar instruments are to be escheated to the state in which they were originally purchased. Delaware argued that MoneyGram’s “official checks” do not fall into this FDA classification, and are therefore due to the state where the company is incorporated.

In May 2021, SCOTUS-appointed Special Master Judge Pierre N. Leval of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 100-page report which ruled in Pennsylvania’s favor, finding that Delaware improperly demanded and received uncashed MoneyGram checks purchased in other states. Today’s Supreme Court decision adopted the recommendations of that report.

In Special Master Leval’s 2021 report, he conclusively determined the disputed MoneyGram “official checks” should be returned to the state of original purchase in compliance with the FDA. He found Delaware’s argument to be logically “flawed” and both “insubstantial and unpersuasive.”

In October 2022, Pennsylvania Treasury and other states presented oral arguments before the Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania’s case was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The case was subsequently moved to the Supreme Court as a dispute between states that falls within the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. After Pennsylvania’s filing, 29 other states filed suit using the same legal arguments advanced by Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is the only state directly represented by its unclaimed property administrator, Treasurer Garrity. Pennsylvania Treasury is represented by its Chief Counsel, Christopher B. Craig, along with Matthew H. Haverstick and Joshua J. Voss of Philadelphia-based Kleinbard LLC.

The other states were all represented by their respective Attorney General Offices.

PA Treasurer Stacy Garrity Elected Chair of National ABLE Savings Plan Network

From a press release

Treasurer Stacy Garrity has been elected as the inaugural Chair of the new ABLE Savings Plan Network (ASPN), a group formed by the National Association of State Treasurers. ABLE programs allow Americans with disabilities to save tax-free without affecting their eligibility for means-tested government benefits.

ABLE accounts help Americans with disabilities live more independently and enjoy better financial security,” Garrity said. “I’m honored to lead this new organization to advance the reach of ABLE programs. We’re all dedicated to making sure these programs are accessible and affordable, and I will be a tireless advocate to ensure our ABLE programs are successful and continue to grow and help more Americans.”

The Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, passed in 2014, allowing states to create ABLE programs. It was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

“ABLE programs help Americans with disabilities save for the future and work towards financial security. I can fortunately say that these programs are benefiting Pennsylvanians every day, helping them lead independent lives,” said Senator Casey. “Treasurer Garrity is knowledgeable and well-qualified for this position. I have faith that she will work to ensure the accessibility of these programs to Pennsylvanians with disabilities.”

ASPN will provide strategic leadership on advancing ABLE accounts by monitoring federal actions, including any legislative or regulatory changes, that impact state ABLE plans, developing strategies to improve ABLE plans at the federal level, and analyzing best practices for those with an eligible disability who want to save and invest for a better life, achieve financial empowerment, and prepare for a more independent future.

Pennsylvania’s ABLE program – PA ABLE – is the largest in the 19-member National ABLE Alliance, accounting for nearly 25 percent of total assets, and one of the largest ABLE programs nationwide. More than 7,000 PA ABLE account owners have saved more than $71 million for disability-related expenses. The program was created with instrumental support from state Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), and the first PA ABLE accounts were opened in 2017.

“We are proud of the bipartisan work done to establish and implement a very effective and popular program here in Pennsylvania,” Baker said. “Since becoming state treasurer, Stacy Garrity has been a champion of expanding eligibility for the program, especially with a focus on assisting veterans, and encouraging more families to sign up for the advantages it offers. It is appropriate that her organizational, fiscal, and advocacy skills will now be deployed on a national basis.”

To be eligible for PA ABLE, a person’s disability must have occurred prior to their 26th birthday. PA ABLE account owners can save and pay for short- or long-term disability related expenses including education, housing, transportation, assistive technology, health care, financial management, and more.

Casey has introduced the ABLE Age Adjustment Act in Congress, which would raise the eligibility to those whose disability occurs by age 46. This would expand ABLE account access to about 6 million more Americans, including an estimated 1 million disabled veterans. The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) A House version has also been introduced and is cosponsored by 17 members of the Pennsylvania delegation.

“I’m a strong supporter of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act and will work with other members of ASPN to urge Congress to approve it and President Biden to sign it,” Garrity said. “It’s a great bill that will benefit many of the brave men and women who have served in our military. It’s time to get it done.”

 

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal

Thieves Scam Millions From Struggling Chester Upland School District

A romance scam, cryptocurrency, and hacked email accounts were part of an attempted theft of large sums of money from the Chester Upland School District.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer and Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity held a press conference Friday to disclose the results of their investigation.

The scheme involved a Florida resident trying to steal, and then launder, millions in state funding for the CUSD. Agencies collaborated to recapture $10.3 million owed to the district.

“The scope and complexity of the scheme are, however, alarming and remind us all of the importance of keeping our technology protected, as well as the perils of conducting financial transactions with–or on behalf of–individuals unknown to you,” Stollsteimer said. “Thanks to quick action by the treasurer’s office, this audacious attempt to steal from the school children of Chester and the taxpayers of the commonwealth was thwarted.”

In February 2021, the treasurer’s office learned from one of its banking partners that a payment request for about $8.5 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) was flagged as potentially fraudulent. It came after several other payment requests from PDE had already been processed and paid to an account thought to belong to CUSD.

Officials alerted the appropriate agencies of their findings, worked quickly to identify misdirected funds, and pursued recall of the misdirected payments.

“We are hopeful that the additional missing $3 million that the district was to receive in state funding will be returned to Chester Upland. Our district faces significant economic challenges, and we are doing our best to allocate as much money as possible to our classrooms and provide appropriate and adequate staffing. An additional $3 million can make a difference for our students. We are also exploring our options with our insurance carrier,” Nafis J. Nicholas, receiver for CUSD, said in a press release. “We are very pleased that $10 million of the $13 million that was intercepted from the district has been returned and recovered to the district.”

The district has been plagued by financial difficulties for decades.

Detective Sergeant Joseph Hackett and Detective Edward Silberstein from the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division (CID) uncovered a two-part, complex scheme that allowed international fraud rings to misdirect the state education funds intended for CUSD.

The CID detectives identified that, in the first part of the scheme, CUSD email systems had been compromised by a sophisticated hacker. Further investigating the channels of the misdirected funds, CID detectives determined that the second part of the scheme employed a money mule to funnel the misdirected funds to other individuals.

That led to CID tracking down, identifying, and interviewing a Florida resident who served as the money mule in the case. After the investigation, it was established that the individual, recently widowed, was a victim of a romance scam.

“Our investigation has determined that this scheme is tied to individuals in Nigeria, and we have alerted all relevant federal authorities in the furtherance of the international investigation,” Stollsteimer said. “By using a widow as a conduit, and by directing those funds be transferred using cryptocurrency, the individuals behind this scheme obscured their identity and made tracing the funds far more complex.”

Quickly after the Treasury learned of these fraudulent payments, the Account Verification System (AVS), a system designed to detect suspicious transactions and prevent fraud, was implemented in the Governor’s Budget Office’s Bureau of Payable Services of Comptroller Operations.

Stollsteimer and Garrity advised residents to be vigilant for cybercriminals and hackers.

“This incident should remind everyone—businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and—always be alert for fraudsters and cybercriminals. We must take every possible step to prevent fraud. In this case, my team and I were very pleased to work closely with District Attorney Stollsteimer and others to recover $10.3 million for the CUSD,” Garrity said. “It’s clear my highest priority is serving as a fiscal watchdog to protect taxpayer funds.”

Treasury was authorized to implement AVS for all Treasury payments as part of the Fiscal Code approved alongside the 2022-23 state budget.

“This was truly a team effort and could not have been possible without the help of the Delaware County District Attorney’s office and its detectives, the staff at the Treasury, and the Bureau of Payable Services Office of Comptroller Operations,” Garrity said.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or Facebook.com/DelawareValleyJournal