For just a while, Draper resident Jerry Mika almost thought of himself as rich man after receiving a check from the state of Utah for $2,245,342.00. He said he even slept with it for the two weeks the check was in his possession.
"It was better than any tooth fairy I ever had," said Mika jokingly.
The mixup happened when the amount of the check for a refund of Mika's real estate license was mistakenly input using the seven digit receipt number on the check rather than the correct amount of $15. The department director said it is the first and hopefully the last time that such an error will occur.
"We're grateful he brought it to our attention because it's allowed us to correct the problem," said Francine Giani, director for the Utah Department of Commerce. "We appreciate his honesty," Giani said. "He was very kind to deliver the check back to the department of finance (where it was issued)."
She said the department has recently installed a new database and this error has revealed a glitch that allows information to be input just once without verifying the amount prior to disbursal.
Giani added the department is conducting an internal review and will take appropriate measures to prevent any more mishaps.
As for Mika, he's made copies of the check to preserve the moment of his temporary largess. He said he initially tried to return the check last week, but mistakenly took it to the Salt Lake County government complex where he got a few interesting responses from folks at the Sheriff's office and the treasurer's office.
"I told (the Sheriff's office) I'd like to return this check and they said 'Boy how come you haven't cashed that?'" Mika said. "Then the lady at the county treasurer's office said 'Oh my gosh, how come you haven't cashed that?'"
Mika said he figured that if he had deposited the check into an interest-bearing account until the state got wise and forced him to return the money, he could have made thousands of dollars in interest in just a couple of weeks.
Instead, he gave it back after carrying it around for days and hearing the advice of the "good angel and the bad angel" whispering to him from both shoulders.
Mika, who participated with the "Super Sherpas" as part of their support crew during their recent scaling of Mount Everest, jokes that he hopes his latest good deed will get him a personal thank you and maybe even a home-cooked meal from Gov. Jon Huntsman, who offered to do so after the Sherpas made history on Everest"I'd like him to hold to his (word). He was going to make us dinner one night (following the Everest expedition). He's still got to make us dinner," Mika said with a smile.