Diogenes, call your office: Honest man returns $2 million


Over 100 million boys in the U.S. have repeated the Scout Law, “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent.”

Jerry Mika of Draper, Utah, lives it.

Jerry Mika, of Draper Utah, with $2 million check sent to him in error - Jeremy Harmon photo, SL Tribune

Mika returned a check for $2,245,342 that the State of Utah had sent him in error (see the Associated Press story in the Provo Daily Herald — photo, above, by Jeremy Harmon, Salt Lake Tribune).

Mika returned the check — a mistake that occurred when an employee entered a serial number, not an amount — to state finance offices Wednesday.

“Clearly we have an honest, honest citizen. I wish I could do something more than say thanks,” commerce department director Francine Giani said.

Can’t Utah grant him a kingdom — half of Millard County or something? A little duchy in Fillmore, Utah?

Mika, who runs the nonprofit Providence Foundation to help Nepalese sherpas, said he’s had great fun showing off the state’s mistake.

“Everybody looked at it, started giggling and asked why I wasn’t already in Switzerland,” he said.

He admits to being tempted to deposit the money and draw a bit interest before the state asked for its return.

“That money would have gone a long way,” he said.

When a company comptroller complained to me once that the $4 million in refunds to our company would mess up his quarterly bookkeeping because he expected the money in the next quarter, I volunteered to park the money in an account for him. He quickly came to his senses. At low, passbook interest rates, the $4 million would have paid $141/hour, 24 hours a day — more than $3,300 a day. A few weeks of that and you’re talkin’ big money.

Because the check was state-issued, cashing it would probably have been easy, despite the large amount, Giani said.

“It was a valid check,” said Rick Beckstead, the state accounting operation manager whose signature is stamped on the check.

How honest are you, Dear Reader? How much of a temptation would it have been to cash that check? (I’ll wager this man is a former Boy Scout; how much does that account for his actions?)

Perhaps you could reward Mr. Mika’s honesty with a contribution to the foundation he operates, The Providence Foundation.

Teachers: Can you see how to make this into a bell-ringer, warm-up exercise?

[Full text of the AP story]

Friday, November 23, 2007

Draper man returns mistaken millions

The Associated Press There are probably a million ways Jerry Mika could spend $2 million dollars.

Trouble is, he couldn’t cash the check.

Expecting a $15 refund from the Utah Department of Commerce, the Draper man opened his mail recently to find a $2,245,342 check.

“I kept trying to find a way to make it legitimate so I could cash it,” he said. “I did think about all the things I could do with the money … who wouldn’t?”

Mika returned the check — a mistake that occurred when an employee entered a serial number, not an amount — to state finance offices Wednesday.

“Clearly we have an honest, honest citizen. I wish I could do something more than say thanks,” commerce department director Francine Giani said.

Giani said the state will implement additional internal controls to catch such mistakes in the future. A new computer system, which only requires entering the amount of a check once, might have contributed to the problem, she said.

Mika, who runs the nonprofit Providence Foundation to help Nepalese sherpas, said he’s had great fun showing off the state’s mistake.

“Everybody looked at it, started giggling and asked why I wasn’t already in Switzerland,” he said.

He admits to being tempted to deposit the money and draw a bit interest before the state asked for its return.

“That money would have gone a long way,” he said.

But ultimately honestly and the idea of spending time at the Utah state prison made Mika too nervous to do anything.

Because the check was state-issued, cashing it would probably have been easy, despite the large amount, Giani said.

“It was a valid check,” said Rick Beckstead, the state accounting operation manager whose signature is stamped on the check. “But it would have been caught when we did reconciliation and we would have been after him for the refund.”

[Article views: 11,048, 11-25-2007]

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8 Responses to Diogenes, call your office: Honest man returns $2 million

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    I guess it wasn’t passbook rates, then.

    But, you know, I’ve never done the calculation myself. I took the number the comptroller gave me as close to gospel.

    Hmmmmm.

    Thanks for the provocative thought.

    Like

  2. Computeyoucant says:

    “At low, passbook interest rates, the $4 million would have paid $141/hour, 24 hours a day — more than $3,300 a day. A few weeks of that and you’re talkin’ big money.”

    Compute, you can’t, as Yoda would say. 3% would be $330 per day. $3300 per day is 30% and that’s a paycheck loan. :-)

    Like

  3. Jackie says:

    Yes, former Girl Scout, which reinforced basic moralities taught and practised in the home. You could say being a Girl and Brownie scout definitely reinforced civics, a sense of duty, and possibly morality in those important formative years. Parents were the most important influence, schools were too, but to a lesser extent back then.

    Like

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    . . . and I don’t think it has anything to do with being a former Girl Scout.

    But you ARE a former Girl Scout, right? There probably is some correlation.

    . . . knowing Jerry . . .

    Do you know if he’s a former Boy Scout? Is he a Utah Mormon? (I ask because Mormons in Utah use Scouting as their youth group for boys — a sure sign he’s a former Scout.)

    Like

  5. Jackie says:

    Dear J. Burton, I couldn’t agree more. we learn right from wrong early on, although moralities can be complex. This was a no brainer, though. The money was not his, and he did the right thing, yay. Didn’t mean to imply Jerry would have behaved differently if he had found cash. Lots of people would have done the same, but sadly, I don’t think a majority of us would have. Not when it comes to money. Something strange happens when money is involved. My approach of non-attachment to material things and lack of desire for same makes these type decisions easier—that was my point :-)

    Like

  6. J.Burton says:

    knowing Jerry, and having seen the check, i think that it was more of him knowing right from wrong, something that is lacking in todays society even with small things.

    Like

  7. Jackie says:

    Cynicism aside, I would have returned the check.. I Don’t care about money… I’m an advertiser’s nightmare!
    Now, knowing the check would eventually be traced back and the check casher/depositor found out– might change things.
    What if he found the same in cash? Now, that is an interesting dilemna! Once found five hundred dollars cash, stuffed in an envelope at an apartment complex I lived in. As a starving student, it may as well have been a million dollars, at that moment. But I knew it was obviously someone’s rent money (I had just paid mine).
    Life has been kind to me in subsequent years, and I don’t think it has anything to do with being a former Girl Scout.

    Like

  8. QrazyQat says:

    former Boy Scout; how much does that account for his actions?

    I suspect the fact that if he cashed a check to which he clearly wasn’t entitled he’d leave himself open to legititmate charges of felony theft might have more to do with it.

    Like

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