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California waiter returns family's lost $32,000

It was said about the Applebee's waiter that 'he just wanted to do the right thing.'

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    An Applebee's employee returned $32,000 in cash to a family who accidentally left the money at an Applebee's.
    Rick Wilking/Reuters/File
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Losing thousands of dollars can be distressing.  

But one family couldn't believe their luck when their lost $32,000 in cash was returned to them by a good Samaritan, the Fresno Bee reported.

“Our hearts dropped,” Erika Gonzalez told the paper, of the moment that she and her mother, Berta Gonzalez, realized the money they intended to put in a bank had been left behind somewhere Wednesday evening.

Ms. Gonzalez said she and her mother took the money to the bank to be put in a safety deposit box, but the bank told them they didn't have any.

They left, ran some errands, and went for dinner at an Applebee’s restaurant in Fresno, California.

It was there that they forgot their navy-blue bag loaded with $100 bills. Unfortunately, the Gonzalez family did not realize the money was missing until they had reached home.

But the money was in good hands – those of a server at the restaurant. 

The honest employee contacted his supervisor and they turned the money over to police.

On Thursday morning, the Gonzalez reported the lost money to police. The police returned the money to them after interviewing the family and confirming they were the rightful owners. 

Applebee's said the employee who found the money does not want any publicity.

“He just wanted to do the right thing,” said Carrie Hellyer, an area director for Applebee’s. “He’s a remarkable young man.”

This is not the first time such an incident has occurred in the city. Last year, a man watering plants for the Salvation Army returned a money bag containing $125,000 that had fallen off from a Brinks armored truck onto a street in downtown Fresno.  

According to researchers, only one in five people who find a wallet in the street would hand it in or try to track down the owner.

Recently, The Christian Science Monitor reported that the legal implications of keeping found money often comes down to how the cash came to be "lost" in the first place.

Every state has laws requiring the return of money or property if it’s possible to identify the owner, like if someone finds a wallet full of cash and an ID. If the owner is not easily identified, however, things get much more legally complicated.

In most states, the finder is required to contact local law enforcement and give them the money or property for a period of time, allowing the owner the opportunity to claim it. If the rightful owner does not come forward, the money goes to the finder.

Keeping the money without contacting local authorities is considered theft, according to the legal information website HG.org – though the rule usually only applies to discoveries of significant monetary value.

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