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Staten Island Officials Search High And Low For Heir To $40 Million Fortune

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- A $40 million fortune could go unclaimed, after a Staten Island man with no will and no heirs passed away.

As CBS 2's Dave Carlin reported, the multi-million dollar mystery has prompted some people to try and cash in.

When Roman Blum, 97, died two and a half years ago, his fortune was worth $40 million.

"He was very shy. We didn't know he was a millionaire," Alla Leychenko said.

A bigger shock for Blum's Staten Island neighbors was that the Holocaust survivor and real estate investor left behind no will.

"This is the only case where there are no heirs, no lawful heirs, and also there are no children," Richmond County Public Administrator Gary Gotlin explained.

Gotlin has been tasked with searching the globe for secret heirs or a hidden will. The task has been complicated because so many of Blum's relatives from Poland died in the Holocaust.

"We have all of his paperwork, all of his financials, all of his private letters," Gotlin said.

Gotlin and his team went so far as to use a Geiger-type device and cameras to look behind and inside the walls of his home. They found gold and jewelry, but no will.

Blum's attorney urged him to write a will, but he didn't. With no family, his money is in limbo.

"He had no children, spouse, sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, or first cousins, or first cousins once-removed," Trusts and Estate Attorney, Herb Nass explained.

That fact has not stopped thousands of people from trying to cash in.

Hundreds of letters -- most coming from Europe and including include photos, family trees, and sad stories -- have come from people who claim to have a connection to the man with the millions.

One letter told of a woman who said that she and Blum had been lovers during the war.

So far, none of the submissions has turned up an heir.

Carlin reported the money will likely end up in the New York State Unclaimed Fund, which includes forgotten bank accounts and totals $12 billion. Blum's fortune will simply sit there.

"You would think he would leave it to the Holocaust Museum or something like that to benefit other people," neighbor, Joe Pirretti said, "You live all your life and accumulate that wealth, and you leave it to nobody."

Estate experts said everyone should have a will or a trust. They also suggest keeping a photocopy and making sure the original, signed document is with an attorney or trusted representative.

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