Utah toddler shreds over US$1,000 of parents' money in attempt to be helpful

The Belnaps started tearing the house apart to search for the cash - under the rugs, in the drawers, in the couch, even in the garbage, before finding the money in the shredder. PHOTO: TWITTER/@BENBELNAP

SALT LAKE CITY (THE WASHINGTON POST) - There are the toddlers who throw tantrums in the grocery store and flush watches down the toilet. There are others who colour all over the wall with permanent marker, or decide a sibling or a pet needs a haircut.

Then, there are the two-year-olds who know how to work a paper shredder.

Leo Belnap is one such two-year-old.

On Sept 30, his parents Ben and Jackee Belnap, from the Salt Lake City area, noticed an important envelope containing US$1,060 (S$1,465) had gone mysteriously missing, as they told radio station KSL.

For the past year, the die-hard University of Utah football fans had been saving up the money to pay back Mr Belnap's parents for season tickets, they said.

The Belnaps started tearing the house apart to search for the cash - under the rugs, in the drawers, in the couch, even in the rubbish, News4Utah reported.

"I'm digging through the trash," Mr Belnap told KSL, "and (Jackee) hollers and says, 'I found it.'"

It was in the shredder. In a thousand tiny pieces. Immediately, Mrs Belnap said, they knew Leo was the culprit. He had been helping her shred junk mail and documents, she told KSL.

Apparently, he thought he was being helpful this time, too.

First, she cried, Mrs Belnap said - just for a minute. Then, they laughed.

"As devastated and as sick as we were," she told News4Utah, "this was one of those moments where you just have to laugh."

Hope, and perhaps the money, may not be lost for the couple. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing offers a solution in the event that a toddler destroys hundreds of dollars by accident.

In fact, the bureau has an entire "Mutilated Currency Division", which is devoted to "redeeming" burned, waterlogged, chemically altered, rodent-chewed or deteriorated money - a free service to the public.

It handles approximately 30,000 claims per year, redeeming more than US$30 million in mutilated cash, according to its website.

The currency "must be forwarded to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for examination by trained experts before any redemption is made", the website says. This is the route the couple hopes to take.

Mr Belnap told KSL they contacted the Treasury Department with questions, and were told to send the remains of the money Washington in ziploc baggies.

On Twitter, Mr Belnap snapped a picture of the couple's meticulous efforts separating the currency from the other shredded pieces of junk mail, so that they could send it to the government.

And in six months to three years, they may get it back. In the meantime, Leo will not be using the shredder anymore.

The silver lining: "Well, this will make a great wedding story one day," Mrs Belnap told KSL.

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