The Crusader Newspaper Group

Holiday joy: Waiter returns family’s lost $32,000

A family’s holiday season went from despair to joy Thursday after it learned that $32,000 in cash that it thought it had lost was returned by a good Samaritan.

“Our hearts dropped,” said Erika Gonzalez, of the moment that she and her mother, Berta Gonzalez, realized the money they intended to put in a bank had been left behind somewhere Wednesday evening.

It turned out the cash had been dropped at an Applebee’s restaurant at Cedar and Herndon avenues in Fresno, where they had stopped for dinner after running errands.

A worker at Applebee’s turned the cash over to Fresno police, who gave the money back to the Gonzalez family Thursday morning after verifying that it belonged to them.

Said Detective Sammy Ashworth: “$32,000 – that amount is virtually unheard of to lose.”

Erika Gonzalez said the family is once again looking forward to a holiday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and that she is very happy she does not have to tell her father that the money he had given her to put in the bank was gone.

The money was lost Wednesday afternoon after Erika, her mother and her son Damien went to a bank to place the money, which came from a restaurant her father owns in San Jose and proceeds from rental houses. They were told that there were no safe-deposit boxes available for the cash, so they ran some errands and then went to the Applebee’s. Later in the evening, they learned the money was missing. They believed it had been left behind at the bank, but when they called, they were told by bank officials that no money had been found.

Panic followed.

Thursday morning, they called police. Ashworth said officers also received a call from Applebee’s, where a server told his boss he had found the small, navy-blue bag containing a large number of $100 bills. After interviewing the family, the money was returned.

The server was not identified – he told police he did not want any publicity. Carrie Hellyer, an area director for Applebee’s, said the server said “he just wanted to do the right thing.”

“He’s a remarkable young man,” she said

Said police spokesman Lt. Joe Gomez: “It’s a good Christmas story.”

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