Jose Nuñez Romaniz went to the bank to deposit money so he could buy socks for his grandfather online when he came across a large clear plastic bag next to an A.T.M. was filled with cash. in Albuquerque.
“When I first saw it, I stared at it for a few seconds and didn’t know what to do,” Nuñez said of his discovery on May 3rd. “I was very shocked. I have never seen so much money. “
He said he noticed a label on the outside of the bag that said it contained $ 60,000 in $ 20 bills. The police later counted another $ 75,000 in $ 50 bills.
“It never occurred to me to keep any of it,” said Mr. Nuñez on Saturday.
Mr. Nuñez first thought about calling Wells Fargo A.T.M. but dialed 911 because he didn’t want it to look like he was stealing, he said.
After calling the police, he put the bag in his car and moved it so someone else could use the machine. Then he called his mother to tell her that he would be home a little late.
Within a few minutes, two police officers arrived, took the bag, and took Mr. Nuñez’s explanation and information. He said his parents expressed astonishment and disbelief when he told what had happened even after showing them the picture.
“I’ve seen a lot in 21 years, but it was unique and refreshing for the department and the city,” said Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Simon Drobik on Saturday. “I think this is the largest amount of money found and returned in Albuquerque.”
Another spokesman for Gilbert Gallegos Jr. said it appeared that a Wells Fargo contractor had intended to transfer the money to A.T.M. but had mistakenly left it on the sidewalk.
On Tuesday morning, Mr. Nuñez was in Phoenix buying materials for his parents’ mattress store when Officer Drobik called.
“He asked me what it was like to be a hero in the city and at first I didn’t know what he was referring to,” said Nuñez. “But then he told me about a ceremony to honor me. He wanted me to take my family there and meet the mayor and the chief of police. “
About 50 people attended the ceremony that took place at the Albuquerque Police Academy on Thursday.
Mr. Nuñez said he received a badge, gift cards, sports equipment, and even a $ 500 scholarship from an electricity company.
“My parents got emotional, my mother mostly,” he said. “I was more nervous than anything else because it was my first time on the news.”
Mr Nuñez said that he had spoken to the two officers who had replied and that they had told him that at first they thought his call was a prank.
Also present were Wells Fargo officials and the contractor, who both expressed their gratitude, he said. Wells Fargo is investigating what happened, the police said.
Wells Fargo spokesman Tony Simmons referred questions to Respond NM, who delivers cash in armored vehicles and A.T.M. Services. The company could not be reached immediately for comment.
When Officer Drobik learned that Mr. Nuñez was studying criminal law and wanted to pursue a law enforcement career, he invited him to apply for a job in the department. Mr Nuñez said he went to the train station on Friday and filled out a civil service application, a starting position for those who want to become law enforcement officers but do not yet meet the requirements.
“I wanted to be a crime scene investigator or police detective since I was a child,” Nuñez said. “I was already concentrating on it.”
Since the ceremony, Mr. Nuñez has received many calls and attention on social media. In particular, many Hispanic Americans have tried to express their support and pride in how Mr. Nuñez represents their community, he said.
The Albuquerque Isotopes, a small league baseball team, asked Mr. Nuñez Throw out first place at an improvised ceremony on Friday in an empty stadium because the coronavirus pandemic delayed the 2020 season.
“The family was very humble,” said Officer Drobik. “It was incredible to see her. There is a bigger good there. They weren’t blown away by Jose’s actions, but everyone else was. “