Shredded cash found in Island trash
By ELIZABETH CELMS
Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
November 3, 2009 · Updated 2:04 PM
The phrase “A fool and his money are soon parted” took on new meaning last week when an Allied Waste employee discovered more than 150 pounds of shredded U.S. currency in an Island resident’s garbage bin on Oct. 29.
The employee called Mercer Island police to report the finding, and the two transparent bags of shredded bills, checks and money orders were hauled into the MIPD’s investigation room.
“It was a million-dollar mystery,” said Operations Commander David Jokinen.
Department detective Pete Erickson, after looking over the bags of finely shredded cash, called in the United States Secret Service to confirm that the substance was, indeed, authentic.
“They came down and looked at the money and confirmed that it was shredded currency,” Jokinen said.
Their minds racing with scenarios, the team showed up at the Island resident’s door to question the man about his morning trash.
“You can imagine his reaction, opening your door to the Secret Service,” Erickson said. “We asked him if he’d put out the garbage this morning and then he caught on and said, ‘You guys must be here about the shredded currency.’”
To Erickson’s admitted disappointment, the money turned out not to be part of an illegal operation. According to the resident, whose identity is being kept anonymous until the investigation is closed, the shredded cash was obtained from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing in 1995 for an art project.
“Turns out he’s an artist and he wanted the currency for a big project,” Erickson said, adding that the resident obtained the money legally. “He sent a letter to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing asking for the [discarded currency], and they gave it to him. We checked with the Federal Reserve and they verified that this has been done in the past.”
The artist, who lived in Massachusetts at the time, created an art installation of a giant bale of money — instead of hay — with a pitchfork sticking out. A review of the artwork, illustrated with a photograph, was published in The Daily Hampshire Gazette. The Islander gave police a copy of the article as evidence.
Yet the subject still had two more bags of the currency, which he moved along with him when relocating to Mercer Island. Deciding that he no longer had use for the shredded money, the Islander threw it out with the trash.
“He said he checked with the Federal Reserve, and they said they also recommended that he throw it out. So that’s what he did,” Erickson said, adding that police planned to throw the money away themselves.
Although the investigation is not yet complete, Erickson said that there is no reason to question the Island resident’s story.
“More than anything, he seemed quite embarrassed about it all,” the detective said. “It’s too bad, really. This was something that had great potential.”