PHOENIX — “Finders keepers” may work on the school grounds.

But appellate Judge Maurice Portley says that’s not the law, at least not in Arizona.

Portley, writing Thursday for the unanimous Arizona Court of Appeals, rejected the claims of a couple who purchased a Paradise Valley home that they are entitled to the $500,000 found in the walls of the home. The court said it belongs to the family of the man who lived there and apparently hid it before he died.

The case involves Robert A. Spann. The Tucson High School graduate had been president and chief executive of the engineering firm of Corning Gilbert Inc. when he died in 2001.

According to court records, after his death, his daughters, Kim and Karen, took charge of the house and, among other things, had some repairs made to the property that had fallen into disrepair. What they also did is look for valuables their father may have left or hidden.

“They knew from experience that he had hidden gold, cash and other valuables in unusual places in other homes,” Portley wrote.

Over the course of seven years, the judge said, they found stocks and bonds as well as hundreds of military-style ammunition cans hidden throughout the house, some of which contained gold or cash.

In 2008 the house was sold “as is” to Sarina Jennings and Clinton McCallum who hired a contractor to remodel the house.

Shortly after the work began, a company worker found two ammunition cans full of cash in the kitchen wall. When he went looking, he found two other cans inside the framing of an upstairs bathroom.

The company owner tried to keep the cash but the employee eventually told the owners. The police eventually took possession of the $500,000.

While the dispute over who was entitled to the cash was working through court, daughter Karen, on behalf of her father's estate, filed her own action claiming that the buyers had no legal claim to the money. When a trial judge agreed, the couple appealed.