Death of Eccentric Brother Sparks $1M Scavenger Hunt
Louis Passerini died alone in New York City 21 years ago
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2015 3:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – A New York City eccentric left behind nearly $1 million scattered around the country when he died—triggering a scavenger hunt and in-fighting among his surviving family members, DNA Info reports. "He was very private," says Joseph Passerini of his brother, Louis, who lived alone and died 21 years ago at age 84. "He never had a telephone or a car, so you couldn’t track him that way." In fact, Joseph and his brother Henry only heard about Louis' death in 2000, when contacted by a company that looks for unclaimed bank money. Louis had left $81,155 in one account, but Henry, knowing Louis as a miser who had traveled in his long Air Force career, figured there was more. So Henry reached out to hundreds of banks through attorneys, contacted government agencies, and talked to administrators of unclaimed funds across the US.

Sure enough, 92-year-old Henry hit gold: $912,000 in safety deposit boxes and bank accounts in several states. Some safety deposit boxes contained notes in a rare shorthand pointing Henry to other hidden assets. Why the secrecy? "He was kind of a mathematical genius as well as being an eccentric," says one of Louis' newphews. Louis generated news in 1936 for his eye-popping, 56-mile round-trip commute to college in Springfield, Mass., then got drafted into the Air Force in World War II. Beyond that, family members aren't saying much about him. They're also in a legal battle over how much to give Henry's lawyers before divvying up the findings. "It’s the longest legal case I’ve ever seen," says a relative. If $912,000 sounds high, KCCI reports that Iowa just returned $2.3 million in property to the estate of a man who showed no interest in claiming it.