The man behind the viral Twitter account @HiddenCash will pay the city of Whittier $5,000 after one of his public scavenger hunts caused extensive damage to William Penn Park.
The damage occurred after hundreds of people assembled late on June 10 at the park, at 13900 Penn Street in Whittier, to search for cash after Jason Buzi, the donor behind @HiddenCash, tweeted clues about his stashes of cash.
Unlike scavenger hunts in the past, the William Penn Park gathering quickly became unmanageable as roughly 1,000 people trampled on plants, destroyed fences and sprinklers and even tried to uproot a newly planted tree believing cash was hidden in the fresh dirt.
“Doing a drop at a small park in Whittier after dark was probably not the smartest idea,” Buzi said in a statement. “A large crowd turned out, and things got rowdy. Young men yelled obscenities on live TV.”
It was all too much, and the park paid for it, he said.
The scavenger hunt not only caused damage to the small, pristine park, which is tucked away in the hills of Whittier, but it also impacted the neighborhood, City Manager Jeff Collier said.
Residents and police had trouble accessing the area for a greater part of the night, he said.
Officers remained at the park overnight because Buzi’s Twitter followers continued to appear in hopes of finding cash.
“It was kind of a mess there for the first few days,” Collier said.
Soon enough, photographs of the damage made the rounds on social media, prompting Buzi to reach out to city officials to pay for repairs.
Buzi’s money will pay for damage to park and overtime pay for the officers, Collier said.
He said Buzi didn’t think his plan through and “people got caught up in the moment.”
“To his credit, he apologized and said he would rethink night drops,” Collier said, adding that a “an important lesson was learned.”
But this isn’t the first time one of Buzi’s scavenger hunts has caused a frenzy in unsuspecting local communities.
Buzi, a wealthy real estate developer, began hiding envelopes of cash in San Francisco and then anonymously tweeted clues about his stashes.
His scavenger hunts quickly gained popularity, so he moved them to several cities throughout California.
Then in May, Buzi had his first encounter with a frenetic crowd at the Empire Center in Burbank -– an experience he later described as “insane.”
He witnessed mobs of people converging on the site, dashing across traffic and leaving behind illegally parked cars.
As his tweets gained attention, Buzi’s hunts also became more elaborate, hiding cash-stuffed Angry Bird figurines and Pez dispensers along Southern California beaches.
In 2008, a publicity stunt staged by Buzi’s then-video-sharing company, Cash Tomato.com, caused a riot in Union Square in New York.
It seems, at least for now, that Buzi has learned his lesson and may consult with local authorities to organize drops.
“Not knowing L.A. County well, and feeling the time pressure to do so many drops in a short amount of time was not a good combination,” he said. “Going forward, we will learn from this.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times