Hypothetical: You Randomly Happen Upon $140,000 In Unmarked Dollar Bills – What Would You Do?

April 10th, 2008 | by MG | (Visited 108,801 times)

The mind twists and contorts as it ponders a question like this. What would you do?

You’re happening down the road, when you run into this, lying on the street:

Would you return $140,000?

Well, it wasn’t a theoretical question for this man, Eli Estrada, who actually DID find the money in such a way.

Eli Estrada Found $140,000 lying on the street

Bundled together after having fallen off of a Brinks truck, he estimates its weight at around 35 pounds.

According to the story from CNN in this video, Eli returned the money, and was paid $2,000 for his good nature. Most people’s first reactions are “Is that IT?!?”, or “I would have kept it!”, or the ever-popular-on-the-internet phrase, “Two Words: Hookers. Blow.”.

Would You Return The Money?

Keep in mind that when you find large amounts of money like this, keeping it is federal grand theft and punishable by a very hefty prison sentence. If you’re not the prison going type, that may add some pause to your answer.

As Estrada said, it wasn’t his to begin with, so the money was appreciated. In essence, he made $2,000 for a few minutes of trouble. Calculated that way, very few people will ever make that much money in one hour doing anything else legally.

You’d walk away a little richer, able to live your life with a clear conscience and one less stressful worry on your mind.

But What If You KEPT The Money?

And now we get to the good part. What if you found this money and kept it? Personally, my primary worry would be surveillance. As a law-abiding citizen, if I decided I would use this money for myself, my first worry would constantly be stressing every time my phone rang with an unusual number, the doorbell rang unexpectedly, or a car seemed to be following me a little too closely.

After a few months, I could rest. By then videotapes would have been seen, usual suspects checked, etc. But now comes the issue of USING the money. The IRS tracks many deposits and purchases involving $10,000 or more, so simply depositing it would be out of the question.

I’d be far too scared to exchange any of it into cashier’s checks, use it at the grocery store, or really anywhere that could, upon being questioned about where THEY received the bills, use video surveillance or other identification, to point back to me.

I imagine I’d have to keep the same job, live the same lifestyle, but supplement small purchases, tips, etc. with the money. Enough to build plausible deniability so that if questioned, I can just shrug and say that it must have been change from the store or something.

A large safe tucked away could hide it, but I’d have to be organized. As a normal guy, I have no knowledge of how to launder money, clean money, or any of that, save for what I see in movies and on television. Even though they were unmarked bills, I have no way of knowing that things still couldn’t get traced back to me.

The Hardest Part Of Keeping It: The Secrecy

I doubt you could call any blogger, whether they blog about personal issues or other things, a truly private person. I don’t know that I have ever kept a big secret from everyone but myself. There’s always that one family member or friend that you feel you trust until the days end and we meet our maker(s).

But you know well enough that one person knowing a secret like this is too much. Because, like you, THEY have people they trust as well. And so do those people, and so on.

What Do YOU Think?

So what would you do? Should he have kept it? Should he have given it back? If YOU kept it, how would you plan on spending/investing/using it?

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Comment by evil
Apr 10, 2008 11:47 AM

brinks is insured so no one would really have lost anything, other than the fucking insurance company

Comment by Mark S.
Apr 10, 2008 11:47 AM

Hahah, someone just lost their job!

Comment by Diablic
Apr 10, 2008 11:48 AM

It’s money picked up from businesses, so its not organized like what would come from the bank or something. I honestly don’t know…

Comment by Mac
Apr 10, 2008 11:48 AM

Good for him. He did the right thing.

Comment by freon
Apr 10, 2008 11:49 AM

Go buy yourself a $2000 safe and don’t even walk that money past a bank. you can’t even really go out and buy a nice car or anything but you could buy all sweet furniture and electronics for your house

Comment by sponge
Apr 10, 2008 11:52 AM

yeah anything overtly expensive would draw some attention

Comment by sil
Apr 10, 2008 11:52 AM

If I would have known it was brinks, I probably wouldn’t have returned it.

What if it was some old lady’s retirement fund?

Comment by Ginnie
Apr 10, 2008 11:54 AM

This comes back to my thought on what’s going on here. Is this a 20/20 sting experiment? Is this a prank?

If I knew everything, I could probably concoct a scenario where I could think of some really fun things, but without all the facts (and given that I really don’t want any trouble), I’d probably end up returning it.

But wow, how fun is it to think about :)

Comment by homersexual
Apr 10, 2008 11:53 AM

I’d certainly enjoy the rest of my 20’s going out every weekend and not giving a shit about what I’m spending. And your vacations would certainly improve.

Comment by Michael
Apr 10, 2008 12:14 PM

$125,000.00 in a high interest, long term account.
$15,000.00 into a nice vacation for my wife and I.

Comment by freon
Apr 10, 2008 12:33 PM

Remember how Elliot Spitzer got caught? His bank ratted his out over 5k deposits or withdrawals, apparently there’s bank software that looks for suspicious activity.

Comment by GPH
Apr 11, 2008 4:07 AM

I dont think that in all conscience it could have kept the money, it would have haunted me for the rest of my life. Someone may have lost that money, which they may have slaved to save up for something important or not whatever. Maybe i would bargain for a bigger ‘gift’ though :). After all i am all about bargains!

Comment by ChaosFreak
Apr 11, 2008 1:43 PM

Take it to Vegas, play Roulette at $15,000 per spin in various casinos. At each casino where you come out ahead, make sure to report your winnings to the IRS. You’ll probably lose half of it, but it will be well laundered.

Comment by BDog
Apr 13, 2008 9:12 PM

For me, there is only one question to ask – can the owner of the money be found? If they can be found, then the money is still theirs. This is not like going down the aisle of a grocery store and finding $10 laying on the ground. Somebody will be LOOKING for this much money and the authorities can help get it back to them. I could not have kept the money.

Comment by GPH
Apr 23, 2008 8:55 PM

A post like this, is interesting not only in itself but also in the discussion that ensues from it. The comments that people leave can be both fascinating and revealing.

Comment by John Walters
May 04, 2008 6:01 AM

Personally I’d take it to a casino. Place it all on Black on roulette. I’d win. I’d then hand back the $200,000 and claim the $2000 reward. I would then be $202,000 richer. Foolproof.


Comment by Saim Baig
May 04, 2008 11:10 PM

I would return it instantly.I have done things like this in the past.But not for a sum like this.

Comment by fhil
Sep 09, 2008 1:47 AM

first off, I’d go to all the food banks, homeless shelters, etc., I can find, and hand the supervisor as much cash as I can carry with two fists. With a skimask on. And then bolt out of there.

second, and during nighttime, I’d go around to all my friends’ houses, and their parents and grandparents houses, especially the ones who REALLY could use the cash, and drop bills in through mailslots, open windows, the goddamn chimney if I have to (if I really like the person). They wake up to free money, which they’re free to turn into the proper authorities if they feel so inclined, but don’t know where it came from.

third, but actually during all the steps, any bums I run across will be tested. they will only have one chance to answer me truthfully. I will ask “What are you drinking tonight?” If they try to bullshit, I walk away. But if they name a kind of alcohol, I’ll ask what brand they like. If they try to bullshit, I walk away. But if they say “Johnnie Walker Blue Label” then I give ’em two Benjis and go on about my business.

then a haircut, a nice meal, a case of beer and a tank of gas.

then a nice long sleep.

and in the morning I’m off to….I dunno….children’s hospital I guess, to donate the rest. Or possibly several hospitals, spying out folks with no insurance. that would be better: less questions.

Does no one else idolize Robin Hood the way I do? The concept of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor excites my very soul.

Comment by Gary
Aug 18, 2010 10:36 AM

It is obvious that it is from a bank and not an old lady that has saved her life savings…but if so then this would soon be on the news. So going from there:
1stly you have a parcel that is 2ftx6inch in a plastic cover weighing 35lb. You would have to have a shirt to cover it and 35lb is not light to carry. 2nd do you have a car and if so do you use this for transport 3rd is there surveillance cameras. If you lived in the area then you would know if there were cameras. AFTER that it is up to you. Take it home and think. It is not grand larceny to hold onto to it for 24 hours, as you are a “busy person” Tell no one especially a wife.


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