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MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (AP) _ A man who apparently hid $20,000 in cash in his girlfriend's oven lost nearly half of it when it caught fire from the pilot light.

``We are trying to determine if there is a criminal element to this,'' said police detective Capt. Robert Kelly.

The Monday apartment blaze was quickly extinguished and police recovered $10,780 when firefighters called them to report what was burning.

``We found out it was U.S. currency that was burning,'' said Fire Chief Ed Bruno. ``A lot of it.''

The money was in denominations ranging from tens to hundreds.