Are You Really A Hero When You Decide Not To Commit A Crime?

19-Year-Old New Mexico Man Visits Local ATM and Finds Bag with $135K Inside, Returns It


José Nuñez Romaniz drove to a local Wells Fargo bank last weekend  to deposit money at the  ATM …and saw a clear plastic bag filled of $50 and $20 bills that he later learned added up to $135,000.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was, like, dreaming,” Nuñez, a Central New Mexico Community College student, told CNN. “I was just in shock. I was looking at myself and just thinking, ‘What should I do?'”

Really? If one finds obviously lost money belonging to someone else, what’s the mandatory response? Is this  a tough question?

 Nuñez eventually made the responsible decision to call the Albuquerque Police Department, who then sent two officers out to pick up the cash. Well, of course he did. How many movies have there been about previously law-abiding citizens who discover a large amount of money try to keep it? In almost every one, they end up on the run, dead, or in jail.  This was the premise of “It’s a Mad,Mad,Mad,Mad, World.” I think the grimmest one is “A Simple Plan,” where the nice people trying to keep the windfall to “have a better life” trigger the deaths of  five people and destroy their marriage.

“This money could have made an incredible amount of difference in his life if he went down the other path,” a spokesman for the Albuquerque police said. ” But he chose … the integrity path and did the right thing.” Right. Tell  Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton about the difference finding a stash in a crashed private plane made in their lives.  Nuñez chose the “integrity path: because he’s not an idiot and doesn’t have a death wish.

The Albuquerque police even presented him with a plaque.

“Meet Jose, this week his selfless actions lead him to contact police and help return $135,000 in cash that he found near an ATM. He is pursuing a degree in criminal justice,” the department wrote on Facebook. “Chief Geier and Mayor Tim Keller invited Jose to the Police Academy where he was recognized and honored for exhibiting the pillars of APD: Integrity, Fairness, Pride and Respect.” Nuñez was also offered season tickets for the University of New Mexico football team by local sports radio station 101.7 FM, and at least three businesses in the area gave him $500 each for his good deed.

Well, the guy seems nice and sincere, and I suppose nothing is wrong about him receiving some gifts and publicity for doing what any citizen should be expected to do, when he really had no other reasonable option. Nevertheless, representing  obeying the law and not stealing someone else’s money as an act of heroism sends very warped message.

Pointer: Michael

9 thoughts on “Are You Really A Hero When You Decide Not To Commit A Crime?

  1. He did the right thing. He did the legal thing. He did the only smart thing. He did the ethical thing.
    Not too sure one routinely sees that quaternate. Donc, voila: ethics hero. Or perhaps more accurately, not an ethics dunce!

    • Also qualifying: not burning down your neighbor’s house. Absolutely not an ethics dunce. To make it to hero, I need to see someone doing the right thing when it’s not in one’s own selfish interest. I guess, come to think of it, if the guy is an idiot and thinks he could have kept the money, then he’s a hero.

  2. Resisting temptation is a flavor of heroism or virtue. The fact that life and fiction show it gors badly doesn’t mean there isn’t a little heroism in it. There are so many ‘heroes’ out there who have done anything that shows any moral fiber. Resisting being a kidnapper or beating someone resists act of comission and seemed implied by the headline, the decision to keep lost items is more omission and a harder thing to resist. Resting a big temptation should be lauded as he has or will be mocked for not looking out for self or family, even if it ends bad in movies, There’s a lot of things I would not do, regardless of how it turns out in movies for the characters, as I’m not a lead character with author for or against me. Redshirts gotta be realistic.

  3. In 1976 I was working a drug enforcement job in a rural judicial district. I was asked to respond to a home in the area in reference to some found money. It seems that the homeowner had walked down his driveway to retrieve his morning paper and noticed a big plastic shopping bag in the weeds near the end of his drive. He went over to pick it up assuming it was trash, and discovered it contained a substantial sum of money. He took the bag back to his home and counted the money, which was about $200,000 in fifties and hundreds. He said he thought about keeping the money, and guessed it was drug money of some sort, so he went so far as to wash it in his clothes washer and dry it in a drier to remove any drug residue!
    The finder said that after further consideration he figured the money would bring nothing but trouble, and so he called my agency to turn the money in. We learned later that another local drug unit had been following a suspected drug dealer in this area the night before the money was found, and the money was apparently thrown out of the moving vehicle without the officers’ seeing it. When the suspect vehicle was stopped a few miles away, no drugs or money were found. I often wondered if the druggies just couldn’t remember where they had tossed the bag.
    The funny thing was that after turning the money over, the finder asked if he might get all or part of it back under the “finders keepers” doctrine, “if no one claimed it.”. I think the look on my face conveyed the unwelcome answer. I gave him the short list of laws he had already violated, and he lost his enthusiasm for making a claim. (Even after his “money laundering” efforts, some of the bills tested positive for cocaine residue.) I used to run into this guy occasionally for a few years after that, and I always asked him if he’d found any more money. He would always answer, “Just in my bank account.”

  4. I’ll cut the APD a little slack on this. Half the world’s below the fiftieth percentile. This young guy did the right thing. As much as I despise the term, I think given the student body PDs deal with day in and day out, this teaching moment was worth taking advantage of.

  5. “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” is another favorite movie of mine. Thank you for the reference. The first time I watched it as a kid, I had to leave the room to keep from throwing up for laughing so hard.

    Spot-on analysis as well. I would be terrified to picked up that much money. What if somebody’s watching? What if it’s a trap? There’s no good future in found money.

    • It may be the ultimate example of a movie remembered fondly from adolescence that is disappointing when seen again as an adult. There’s a lot to like, don’t get me wrong, beginning with its historical achievement of putting so many great comedians of that era on film. Some scenes—Sid Caesar and Edie Adams in the hardware store, some of the cameos, everything with Phil Silvers, are still funny. The film suffers because Kramer was not a skilled comedy director, and because some of the casting, especially Spencer Tracy, which I just do not understand to this day, was terrible; Ethel Merman was also a mistake. I also find myself wondering where many of the missing stars were. Lucille Ball? Danny Kaye? Jackie Gleason? If you are going to make a who’s who, you better get all the whos.

      Almost all women hate the movie. My wife won’t let me watch it.

      • I found it more than a little on the moronic side even as a teenager when I was it in the theater. (Wait, where else would I have seen it?) Maybe “manic” is a better word than “moronic.”

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