19-year-old Jose Nuñez Romaniz noticed his account balance was low on May 2, when he tried to buy socks online for his grandfather, so he went to deposit money at a Wells Fargo ATM in Albuquerque where he lives.
As he approached the ATM he saw a clear plastic bag filled with money on the ground. Later, authorities would tell him the bag contained $135,000 in cash.
“When I first saw it, I kind of stared at it for a few seconds, not knowing what to do,” the teen told the New York Times. “I was very shocked. I’ve never seen so much money.”
Nuñez, a criminal justice student at Central New Mexico Community College, says it never crossed his mind to keep any of the money.
He considered calling the toll-free number on the ATM, but opted for 911 instead. Nuñez called his mother to let her know he’d be a little longer than expected and waited for the police to arrive with the bag of cash safely stashed in his vehicle.
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff in 21 years, but this was unique and refreshing for the department and city,” Officer Simon Drobik, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman said. “I think this is the biggest amount of money found in Albuquerque and returned.”
In fact, the responding officers later told Nuñez they initially thought the call was a prank.
It turns out a Wells Fargo contractor who’d intended to refill the machine with cash unknowingly left the bag on the sidewalk. Nuñez was honored for doing the right thing at a ceremony hosted by the mayor and the chief of police.
Mayor Tim Keller praised Nuñez for his honestly: “Man, we all know that temptation. Even just to take a little, just one of those bundles off the top. I mean that had to be really hard.”
Nuñez was rewarded with plaque, gift cards, season football tickets, and a signed football—plus $500 toward his education from a local electric company.
“My parents got emotional, my mom mostly,” he said. “I was more nervous than anything because it was my first time on the news.”
Officer Drobik learned that Nuñez was studying criminal justice and invited the young man to apply for an entry-level position in the department.
“I’ve wanted to be a crime scene investigator or a detective for the police since I was a kid,” Mr. Nuñez said. “I already had my mind set on that.”
So Nuñez applied for a public service aide position at the station last week. We have a feeling he will get the job.