Roommates buy used couch, find $41K in cash – and return the money

Three friends bought a lumpy couch and chair for $55. A month later, they uncovered $40,800 in cash-filled envelopes, along with a deposit slip that led them to a 91-year-old widow.

Mike Groll/AP
L.-r.: Lara Russo, Cally Guasti, and Reese Werkhoven sit on a couch in their apartment in New Paltz, N.Y. on Thursday, May 15. The roommates purchased it at a Salvation Army store in March and found $40,800 stashed inside.

For all the screaming and carrying on, their neighbors thought they'd won the lottery. But it was a lumpy old sofa stuffed with $40,000 in cash that had three young roommates raising a ruckus.

And here's the best part: They returned the money to the 91-year-old widow whose couch had been given away.

"We just pulled out envelopes and envelopes," said Cally Guasti, a social worker with Family of Woodstock who shares an apartment with two friends in New Paltz, 75 miles north of New York City. "My mouth was literally hanging open – everybody's was – it was an unfathomable amount."

Guasti told The Associated Press on Thursday that she and her friends had bought the beat-up couch and a chair for $55 at a Salvation Army thrift shop in March. They noticed the arm cushions were weirdly lumpy. Then, one night in April, one of them, State University of New York at New Paltz student Reese Werkhoven, opened a zipper on one arm and found an envelope.

It contained $4,000 in bubble-wrapped bills.

Guasti, Werkhoven and roommate Lara Russo opened the other arm zipper and started mining the treasure stashed inside. They counted it up: $40,800.

"Honestly, I was a little overwhelmed," Russo said. "I wanted to put it back in the couch and like re-find it in the morning when I can process it better."

Gausti said they spread the money on the bed and started counting.

"And we were screaming," she said "In the morning, our neighbors were like, 'We thought you won the lottery.'"

Mixed in with the cash was a deposit slip with a woman's name on it. Werkhoven called her the next morning.

"She said, 'I have a lot of money in that couch and I really need it,' " Guasti said.

They drove to the home of the woman, who turned out to be the elderly woman. She cried in gratitude when they gave her the cash she had hidden away.

The woman's family had donated the couch to the Salvation Army while she was having health problems.

"It's not our money, said Werkhoven, of New York City. "We didn't have any right to it." 

Guasti said the cash simply wasn't theirs. "I think if any of us had used it, it would have felt really wrong."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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