LAS VEGAS — Northern Nevada officials say there’s a lesson here of a Howard Hughes ilk: You can never judge a person’s worth by the kind of life he or she leads.
Authorities in Carson City recently made an astounding discovery in the home of a local recluse whose body was found in his residence. Walter Samaszko Jr. had left only $200 in his bank account. But hidden throughout the house were other treasures — including gold bars and coins valued at $7 million.
“You never anticipate running into anything like this,” Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover told the Los Angeles Times. “It was a run-of-the-mill 1,200-square-foot tract home that still had orange shag carpet. This guy was everybody’s next-door neighbor.”
Samaszko, 69, was described by officials as a loner who went about his business and had few friends. He had been dead at least a month when neighbors called authorities. The victim, who suffered from heart trouble, had lived in the house since the 1960s, and his mother lived with him until her death in 1992.
Glover, who also serves as the local public administrator, was tasked with dealing with the effects of a man who had left no will and had no known living relatives. But during the home cleanup, workers struck gold.
“He was a hoarder — there was everything inside that home you could think of,” Glover said. “The workers found a crawl space from the garage. That led to everything else.
“He was apparently buying gold from a local coin dealer. We found it in sealed boxes marked ‘books.’ We also found gold wrapped in tinfoil stored in ammunition boxes,” Glover told the Times. “There was just more and more. We found a family silver set with rolls of U.S. $20s and Mexican five peso coins.”
The gold coins had been minted as early as the 1840s in such countries as Mexico, England, Austria and South Africa, he said.
Based on just the weight of the gold, Glover estimates the value at $7 million. Because some of the coins appear to be collector items, the value could go much higher, he said.
Officials eventually used a metal detector to search the backyard to make sure they had left no coin uncovered. Samaszko also had stock accounts of more than $165,000 and another $12,000 in cash at the house.
Then came the task of finding relatives. Investigators used list of people who attended Samaszko’s mother’s funeral to track down a first cousin who lives in San Rafael, Calif.
“This will be good for her,” Glover said. “She’s a substitute school teacher who lives in an apartment.”
He said the deceased remains an enigma. “He didn’t socialize. He wasn’t exactly a hermit — he shopped for groceries and talked with at least one elderly neighbor. In his garage was a 1968 Mustang he bought new.”
“He didn’t belong to anything. He just went his own way, with all that gold.”