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Oct 1, 2009 3:00 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton couple returns woman's missing wallet ... and $2,400

Oct 1, 2009 3:00 PM

As she strapped her granddaughter into a car seat on Friday afternoon, Michelle Stevens had no idea that $2,400 of her hard-earned cash would soon be fluttering in the air and landing on the windshield of another vehicle like so much rain.

Ms. Stevens, in the rush of running errands on a break from her job at the Bridgehampton Post Office, accidentally left her wallet—which contained the money she had just withdrawn to pay for dental work—on the top of her Ford Escort, and drove away without realizing it. As she made a right-hand turn from Montauk Highway into the Bridgehampton Commons, the wallet flew off the car, she said. By the time she went back to look for it, it was gone.

Little did Ms. Stevens know that as she was frantically searching for her money, two people on the way home from running their own errands were driving into what they thought was a squall of cash.

Cindy Nicholson and Robert Walton, who are interior and exterior painters, had been in Riverhead shopping for a new hot water heater. They were driving home empty-handed because they couldn’t find a model within their budget, which they have had to tighten recently because of the slowing economy. Driving their pickup truck along Montauk Highway into a flurry of greenbacks, they thought it was divine intervention.

“All this money was flying in the air,” Ms. Nicholson said. “We said, ‘Oh God, our prayers have been answered!’”

But as Ms. Nicholson and Mr. Walton pulled over to gather up what they thought was a godsend, they saw a wallet lying in the shoulder of the highway. Inside, they found Ms. Stevens’s phone number on a dry cleaning ticket.

“Then we were like, ‘Oh, it’s not just found money,’” Ms. Nicholson said.

She and Mr. Walton returned the wallet and the free-floating money they happened upon to Ms. Stevens.

They called her as soon as they reached their home in Springs, hoping to catch her before she’d gone through the trouble of canceling all her credit and debit cards, Ms. Nicholson explained, and left a message on her answering machine. Ms. Stevens called the pair back within a half hour, and by Friday evening she was reunited with the $2,400 and her black Buxton wallet.

“It was all there,” Ms. Stevens said. “I could not believe it.”

Ms. Stevens said she was in awe over Ms. Nicholson’s and Mr. Walton’s good deed. The pair were looking to purchase a hot water heater, an expense upward of $800, when they came upon the wallet stuffed with enough cash to pay for the household necessity and more. But the pair took the high road and returned all the money.

“They were looking at $2,400 from someone they don’t know, but they made the conscious decision to do the right thing,” Ms. Stevens said, adding that just thinking about how they decided to return the money makes her tear up. “They’re awesome people.”

Ms. Nicholson said that, although she tried to refuse it, Ms. Stevens gave her and Mr. Walton a reward of $150 for finding the wallet. Ms. Nicholson gave her business cards to Ms. Stevens and hopes, above all, that she and Mr. Walton can find some work as a by-product of the entire fiasco.

Ms. Nicholson noted that as soon as she returned the wallet to Ms. Stevens, she heard back from her doctor with some test results. It was possible that she had pancreatic cancer. But good news was all she got. The test was benign.

“It’s karma,” Ms. Stevens said.

Mr. Walton said that the incident has brought him and Ms. Nicholson together with Ms. Stevens in a way they never would have imagined, and that they will now be lifelong friends.

“Thank God we found it and it was not someone else—not that we don’t believe the majority of people would return it,” Ms. Nicholson said. “We’re just glad we found it and are able to do the right thing.”

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I found a lot of money in big bills, a brand new Hampton Jitney book of ten tickets, someone's corporate ID, social security card, a checkbook, their address book and their day book with their whole business life in it, etc. blowing around my driveway entrance and across the road some years ago. Both books had been taken out of the covers they had been in, but otherwise were intact. A tiny gold inscription on the pages identified each of them as being from Hermes, so the books must have been very ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Sep 28, 09 3:56 PM
3 members liked this comment
That is awful...you should have at that point taken all of that money and donated it to charity...I don't understand people who are like this.
By ahhhndrea (25), Southampton on Sep 29, 09 11:09 AM
To goldenrod:

The reaction of the person whose belongings you found is revelatory of his character. He suspected that you stole the leather covers because that is what he would have done, together with other valuables, and left everything else on the street. Even in the face of your selfless good deed, he was still looking for a mercenary motive.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 2, 09 12:01 PM
Yeah, most people are jerks about such things. This lady got lucky.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 28, 09 4:09 PM
Okay, as I noted in a Comment to the original story, the return of the wallet and its contents would be the story, and now that it's actually happened, all we get is a "tease" of a story to be told in this coming edition??

Has The Press management been retinking its entire internet strategy?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Sep 28, 09 5:15 PM
Looks that way, Frank. Good ending to a news event that was reported real quickly late last week, as I recall, in a very timely manner.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 28, 09 7:12 PM
How wonderful that Michelle's wallet and cash were found and returned! I once left my wallet on top of my car in NYC, and it was mailed back to me, totally intact, nothing missing...there ARE good people in the world!
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Sep 30, 09 8:26 AM
I know Rickochet personally & I am not surprised in the least, he's a sweetheart of a guy! Yes, there are good people in the world M O'Connor and alot of them live here year-round.
By trublnocknatmydr (35), East Hampton on Sep 30, 09 9:47 AM
I once came home from work to find a delivery that was not meant for me - I lived on Middle Hwy, it was addressed to Middle Lane. I looked up the intended recipients phone number and called them to let them know I had their package. They were quite happy and thankful and came to pick up the package.
By Rich Morey (378), Brooklyn on Sep 30, 09 12:01 PM
By JDPD61@AOL.COM (10), HAMPTON BAYS NY on Oct 1, 09 3:50 PM
Cindy Nicholson and Robert Walton, YOU RULE!

I remember when a television show planted a new wallet with a $10 bill in it on a NYC street. The other contents of the wallet made it clear that it belonged to a 12 year old who had just received it as a birthday present. It contained his name, something like, "Tommy Jones", address, and telephone number. Nine out of ten people who picked it up just kept the $10!
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 1, 09 5:23 PM
...people should be more careful with their belongings. I know if i had 2500 bucks in my wallet, the last place id be putting it was on top of my car....
By slamminsammy (104), East Moriches on Oct 2, 09 10:43 AM
Wow. Those are two painters that should get LOTS of business- how nice to have people inside a home and be able to just leave, let them do their job, and not worry for even a second about anything missing.
It's hard to find such people- I'm writing down their names.
By LM (35), riverhead on Oct 2, 09 7:53 PM
I'm with you, LM!!! I'd like the contact info for these people...would someone provide it?? What an enjoyable story (for a change).
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Oct 3, 09 11:28 AM
$2400 for "dental work" ? Thats pretty shady. Who is this dentist?

(dentist is probably trying to evade taxes I suppose)
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Oct 5, 09 11:28 AM
Now, now, nicole.

I had a supervisor once, who in his own right is a bit shady when it comes to scruples.

There are just people out there who can't believe that someone would do the right thing. They would assume some untrustworthy aspect of one's character is yours as well. They can't get over that lacking in themselves, and that's how they express it.

Just the way it is, I suppose...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Oct 6, 09 2:04 PM