It isn’t every day that you find unattended cash lying around — and even when you do, it’s often in small denominations or in a lost wallet that makes it clear that the money belongs to someone.
But a bag of nameless cold, hard cash — $135,000 — just sitting next to an ATM? Not everyone would have been as honest as Jose Nuñez Romaniz from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but thankfully he was the one who stumbled across the scene.
When he approached the ATM, he spotted the clear bag filled with stacks of money.
“I was in shock,” he said, according to KOAT. “I didn’t believe I was looking at so much [money].”
But there were many factors that prompted Jose to make the right decision. First, he thought of his mother.
“In the back of my head I was thinking about my parents, especially my mom, and if I came home with the money, what would she do.”
Second, he is studying criminal justice and wants to become a crime scene investigator, so that likely played a role in his decision making. He called the police, and they came to retrieve the cash since the bank was closed.
“This money could have made an incredible amount of difference in his life if he went down the other path, but he chose … the integrity path and did the right thing,” Officer Simon Drobik said.
“I think his values were established by the values they established at home,” Police Chief Mike Geier said.
The cash was determined to have been accidentally left when someone came to refill the ATM.
Nuñez has walked away from this situation with far more than a verbal thank-you for his honesty.
Because he made the right choice, he has gained local fame, a cash thank-you from a local restaurant, sports merchandise, and perhaps most importantly, a job offer from the Albuquerque Police Department.
“‘It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do,'” the Albuquerque Police Department shared on Thursday. “Meet Jose, this week his selfless actions lead him to contact police and help return $135,000 in cash that he found near an ATM.
“He is pursuing a degree in criminal justice. Chief Geier and Mayor Tim Keller invited Jose to the Police Academy where he was recognized and honored for exhibiting the pillars of APD: Integrity, Fairness, Pride and Respect.”
While Nuñez, 19, isn’t old enough to be a cop just yet, he’s been invited to apply to become a Public Safety Officer in the meantime.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.