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If You Find $41K in Cash in a Couch, Can You Keep It?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Many people dream about finding a bag of money on the street. But three college roommates in New York lived that dream and then some: They found bubblewrapped envelopes stuffed inside the pillows of their couch filled with $41,000 in cash.

But along with the money, New York's WCBS-TV reports, the trio also found a woman's name printed on one of the envelopes.

Would you try to track down the woman or keep the money? And what does the law say you should do?

Do the Right Thing

Once the money's true owner's name was discovered, roommate Reese Werkhoven told WCBS-TV, the trio knew they had to give the money up. So they looked up the woman whose name was on the envelope and gave her a call. Needless to say, she was glad they did.

The woman explained that she'd been stashing money in the couch for years, but that her family didn't know and donated the couch. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said the money in the envelopes represented her life savings.

Though it may be ill-advised, it's perfectly legal to keep your savings in your couch. However, would it have been legal for the trio to have kept the money instead of giving it back?

Finders Not Necessarily Keepers

Under New York law, money is considered property, and those who find lost or mislaid property worth $20 or more, with the knowledge that it is lost property, are obligated to either return it to the owner or take it to the police.

In this case, as there was a name on the envelope, it would've been hard for the trio to argue that they were unaware that it was someone's lost property. Even if they were to argue that donating the couch essentially meant abandoning the money, the New York code governing lost property requires that abandoned property should be treated as lost property unless and until you go to court to prove it's not.

Thankfully instead of skirting the law, the trio returned the money to its rightful owner -- and got $1,000 for their trouble.

Sure $1,000 is pretty good money, but being on the good side of both the law and karma? That's priceless.

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