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U.S. teen finds $135K cash next to ATM, returns it to police

Jose Nuñez Romaniz found $135,000 in cash beside an ATM in Albuquerque, N.M. Instead of walking away with it, he called the police. .
Jose Nuñez Romaniz found $135,000 in cash beside an ATM in Albuquerque, N.M. Instead of walking away with it, he called the police. . Albuquerque Police Department

A New Mexico teenager from “humble beginnings” went out one day to get socks for his grandpa and ended up finding $135,000 in cash instead.

Jose Nuñez Romaniz finally found the socks his grandfather wanted online. While depositing money at a bank machine on Sunday so he could make the purchase, he found huge wads of cash beside the ATM.

But instead of keeping the funds, the 19-year-old called the police to help return it to its rightful owner.

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“I didn’t know what to do. I was, like, dreaming,” he told CNN. “I was just in shock. I was looking at myself and just thinking, ‘What should I do?'”

The Albuquerque Police Department shared the story on Facebook, singing Romaniz’s praises for his “selfless actions.”

He was even invited to the police academy, where he was recognized and honoured for his act of kindness. The post says he was also awarded money for his good deed.

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Romaniz called police after finding the money, given the Wells Fargo bank he was visiting was closed that day.

Two officers arrived, who took the cash and counted it at the station.

“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, a spokesman for the Albuquerque police, told CNN.

“What a great opportunity for us to see some good in the community with all the tragedies we see with young people, this really restores our faith in the community as well,” Albuquerque police Chief Mike Geier said on Thursday while presenting Romaniz with a plaque, per KRQE-TV.

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Though it might’ve been tempting to take the money, Romaniz, who said his family comes from “humble beginnings,” never considered keeping the cash.

“My parents always taught me to work for my own,” he said. “Stolen money would never last you any time.”

His good heart didn’t go unnoticed.

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Albuquerque ESPN Radio 101.7 FM gave him signed sports memorabilia and six season tickets for University of New Mexico football. Three local businesses also gave the teen $500 each.

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Despite the day’s events, his grandpa got what he needed in the end, he told the radio station.

“I went back home and finished my online shopping.”

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca