Workers Spotted A Lost Fortune Under This Home – And Did Something Remarkable With The Secret Stash

It’s a fall day in Sacramento, California, and two workers are busy carrying out improvements on a local home. But as they prize up the floorboards, they discover something astonishing lurking beneath. Stored inside a dozen glass containers is a secret so valuable that it could change their lives. So what will they do?

It’s the sort of moment that many of us dream about: stumbling upon a heap of treasure hidden in a secret place. And who hasn’t thought about what they might do if they were lucky enough to find such a fortune themselves? For Steve Ottley and his co-worker, these daydreams were about to come true.

In the fall of 2012 the pair arrived at an unassuming Sacramento residence, ready to install new appliances to deliver air-con and heating. But it would turn into a day that they’d never forget. Beneath the home, they found something worth a fortune, which plunged them into the depths of an ethical dilemma.

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Would Ottley and his colleague stay silent, keeping the valuable find for themselves? Or would they hand it over? And what exactly had they found to prompt such a soul-searching decision? The truth’s a remarkable story about lost treasure and how humans react when faced with such a discovery.

As an installer with the Sacramento-based firm Clarke & Rush, Ottley has plenty of experience in delving beneath other people’s homes. Founded back during the 1960s, the company specializes in cooling and heating appliances. And as such, its employees are often called upon to visit properties across the city and beyond.

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Being a family-owned company established for more than 50 years, reputation is important to the team at Clarke & Rush. So much so, in fact, that they only employ certified experts to work there. Experts who, like Ottley, are fully qualified to deal with whatever challenges a job might present.

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But there was nothing in the Clarke & Rush training program that could’ve prepared Ottley for what was to come. Some might argue that perhaps there should have been, though. After all, the incident in September 2012 wasn’t actually the only occasion on which staff from the Sacramento company had stumbled across a hidden treasure.

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According to reports, something similar happened back during the 1980s. Apparently, employees of Clarke & Rush were at work in an unspecified location when they found something completely unexpected. There, hidden away in a private home, was a stash of golden coins, with value in the region of $25,000.

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Unfortunately, though, details about this previous find are scarce. We do not know where the coins came from, for example, or where exactly they ended up. But the story is certainly enough to suggest that Clarke & Rush may have had a penchant for finding treasure long before this more recent discovery.

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Of course, some might find it odd that the same firm managed to uncover buried treasure on two separate occasions. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, humans have been striking gold in the Sacramento Valley since at least the 1840s, when workers unearthed valuable nuggets lurking beneath the soil.

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Initially, a pioneer named John Sutter had intended to establish a farming settlement in the region. But as word of the precious metal spread, prospectors began traveling there from across the country in droves. In order to accommodate them – and the burgeoning gold trade – the city of Sacramento was born.

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For seven years, Sacramento found itself at the heart of the California Gold Rush, standing center stage as fortunes were lost and made. And while the days of eager prospectors arriving in the West are long gone, an association between the city and buried treasure remains. Over the years, a number of legends have emerged to reinforce this connection.

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Just southeast of the city in Amador County, for example, there are rumors of a hoard of gold hidden by a prospector who struck lucky. Apparently, he died before he could share with anyone the location of his secret stash. And in the Sacramento Valley, some believe that the lost riches of ambushed settlers are still out there waiting to be found.

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But despite these stories, gold was probably the last thing on Ottley’s mind when he arrived to carry out a job at a Sacramento residence. After all, it’d been more than 150 years since this part of California had thronged with prospectors keen to make their fortunes. And now, the state’s capital city was known more for its bohemian lifestyles than for any riches lurking beneath the surface.

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According to reports, Ottley was an old pro who’d set up countless of air-con, ventilation and heating systems throughout his career. And at first, he had no reason to suspect that this job was going to be any different. Certainly, from the outside, the home looked just like any other single-story Californian property.

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But as Ottley and his partner set about their task, they soon realized that this day would be one they’d never forget. When they lifted an area of flooring to put in the new system, the pair spotted some valuable treasure hidden beneath. Was it more gold, like their colleagues had found back in the 1980s? Or something with a more sinister twist?

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There, in a recess underneath the floorboards, were around a dozen containers, similar to the type used to store baby food. But what was inside them was definitely no infant’s snack. When they took a closer look, in fact, Ottley and his co-worker realized that these jars were filled with gold dust.

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Looking back, Ottley recalled the shock that he had felt after making the discovery. Speaking to CBS Sacramento in November 2012, he admitted, “I still can’t believe it today. It’s unreal. We kind of just looked at each other and said, ‘Wow.’ I looked at it and said, “I think that’s gold.’” And as it turned out, he was right.

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But how exactly did these precious jars find their way beneath the floorboards of a Sacramento home? And how much cash was this unexpected treasure worth? According to experts, the value of gold dust varies depending on the quality of the material, but it can reach more than $250 for a single gram.

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In this case, reports claim, the gold dust within the jars had a combined value of $300,000 – a fortune to a HVAC installer such as Ottley. In fact, the average salary in California was just over $50,000 in 2012. So what did the lucky pair do when confronted with a treasure worth at least six times what many locals make in a year?

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Did Ottley and his colleague keep quiet and pocket the jars? After all, there was apparently no indication that the homeowner was aware of the treasure. By simply keeping their mouths shut, it seemed, the pair could walk away from the job carrying enough gold to change both their lives.

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Or did the workers do the honest thing and admit what they’d found? Speaking to CBS Sacramento, Ottley admitted that – for a second at least – he’d been tempted to keep the gold. But ultimately, his previous experiences of being stolen from inspired him to take a different path.

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Yes, as it turned out, Ottley had actually been a victim of theft in the past. He explained, “I’ve had similar incidents happen to me where jewelry and gold was taken from me.” And so, he decided to do the honest thing and turn the jars over to the homeowners – who were presumably stunned by the incredible find.

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According to reports, the origin of this gold dust has yet to be ascertained. Was it hidden away by some modern-day prospector after they struck lucky in the Californian hills? Or perhaps hoarded by some eccentric landowner with an aversion to keeping money in cash form? The truth, it seems, may never be discovered.

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In the meantime, the recipients of the unexpected windfall – who didn’t wish to be named – have been getting to grips with their newfound wealth. Before Ottley’s discovery, they could well have been smarting over the $6,000-plus bill for their new HVAC system. But in reality, it was an investment that paid off in spades.

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Fortuitously, the discovery came at a fantastic time for Clarke & Rush, as the company was preparing to mark its golden anniversary. And so, bosses decided to utilize Ottley’s honesty as a marketing stunt. In November 2012 the firm uploaded a video to its YouTube channel and announced the details of the incredible find.

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In the video, Ottley is shown discussing the moment that he made the fateful discovery. Afterwards, Mark Thyne, who works in customer relations for Clarke & Rush, admitted that the firm can’t promise a similar windfall to future customers – however appealing it might be. He added, “That’s one promise I can’t make.”

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“But I can say this,” Thyne continued. “The integrity and professionalism of Clarke & Rush, every time we find this type of thing, we are always trustworthy and upfront.” Clearly, then, Ottley’s employers were happy with his actions in turning over the treasure to the owners of the home. But other workers who’ve found themselves in similar circumstances haven’t been so lucky.

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In October 2019, for example, Daniel Boyd and Warren Bruggy were hard at work demolishing a property on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. And as it turned out, the region would live up to its name. While they were knocking down the main residence and adjoining tennis court and pool, it seems, the two men stumbled upon an unexpected treasure.

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There, some 20 inches beneath the surface, Boyd and Bruggy discovered a number of plastic containers. And when they took a closer look, they realized that they were stuffed with banknotes – around $100,000 worth to be precise. With no homeowner present, the pair were faced with a different dilemma.

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In a strange coincidence, reports claim, there was a police station located directly over the street from where Boyd and Bruggy made the discovery. And so, the two men decided to hand the treasure straight over to the authorities. But unlike Ottley’s employers, Shane Grimwood, who runs the company that employed Boyd and Bruggy, wasn’t pleased with how things turned out.

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In fact, according to legal documents, Grimwood dismissed Boyd and Bruggy on the spot, so furious was he that they hadn’t taken the treasure to him first. And he might have had good reason for being annoyed. In Queensland, the law states that anyone who hands in lost property can ask for it back if nobody claims it.

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So were Boyd and Bruggy trying to do the right thing? Or did they make a savvy decision in line with “finders keepers” laws? Whatever the truth, things became even more tense when further investigations revealed an additional stash of notes totaling almost $400,000 on the property. Eventually, the proprietor of the plot, Scott Morrison, became involved as well and attempted to claim the valuable stash for himself.

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As if things weren’t complicated enough already, yet another party – Raymond Ma – also came forward to stake his claim on the cash. According to him, his father had hidden the notes at the Gold Coast property as part of a tax-evasion scheme. After a drawn-out legal battle, the hoard was eventually split four ways between Morrison, Ma, Boyd and Bruggy.

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But not all workers have been as honest as the ones in Sacramento and the Gold Coast when it comes to finding buried treasure. In 2014 it was reported that three men had been apprehended following their discovery of a fortune worth more than $1 million in a homeowner’s backyard. Unlike Ottley and the Australian employees, though, they didn’t hand the windfall in.

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According to CNBC, the homeowner had even joked with the men about what could be beneath her property. She’s reported to have said, “If you find any treasure, let me know!” But when the three men discovered a stash of gold coins alongside 16 gold bars, they kept quiet.

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In fact, the discovery was only revealed when the French authorities grew suspicious of one of the worker’s financial records. Apparently, he’d deposited a couple of very large checks, of $301,000 and $40,000 respectively, with his bank. When questioned about this activity, it seems, he confessed the truth of the matter.

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According to CNBC, the worker admitted that he and his colleagues had stumbled across the stash of gold in their client’s backyard. And rather than hand it over, they’d excavated it in secret, intending to sell the lot. With their new-found riches, they’re thought to have splashed out on home improvements as well as luxury vehicles, which have since been seized.

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But even though the men were caught, the issue was far from resolved. According to reports, the gold may date back to World War Two, making it a treasure of historical interest. And as such, the landowners might face a battle with the government to regain control of the valuable hoard.

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So, it seems that Ottley and his partner are far from the only people to have stumbled across a lost fortune while carrying out work in a private home. But if the other cases are anything to go by, it appears that honesty really is the best policy – particularly where buried treasure is concerned.

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