WASHINGTON - Deep within the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing lies a team of experts tasked with salvaging the remnants of mutilated money.
From burned bills torched in a devastating wildfire to soggy savings water damaged after being found in a box in the backyard, a team of trained professionals is dedicated to helping people redeem their mangled money.
"There's a different story to every package. Every now and then you'll get something that's something you never thought of," explained Eric Walsh, a manager at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. "On years that there are natural disasters, unfortunately, we're going through one right now, there's a larger intake. A lot of them are heartbreaking and some of them are 'I can't believe I did this. I had money in my oven and forgot it was in there.'"
The team on 14th Street, Southwest probes, picks at and pulls apart as it puts the pieces of the puzzle together on nearly 23,000 claims a year, resulting in a return of about $40 million back to citizens.
"There has to be enough of the note present that we can denominate it and authenticate it. So we're pretty good at recovering what's there as long as enough of the note is present for us to do that," Walsh detailed.
Bloody bills, dye-pack stained dinero and charred cash are common at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
"This customer was shredding up some bills and she forgot she had money in a particular envelope and once she got done shredding her pile of stuff she realized she'd shredded her money too," an employee combing through slivers of paper said. "It was a really good shredder because it's making my life really difficult right now."
Many assume their cash is a lost cause and reach out as a last-ditch attempt to re-coop some of their money and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing said it's glad to help with its free service.
Watch FOX 5's award-winning photojournalist Chip Baysden full report on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's mutilated money division in the video player above.