The family who gave it away had no idea the cash was there, but were grateful to Vicky Umodu for returning it.
Imagine getting a free sofa from someone, taking off the sofa cushion covers to wash them and finding a huge amount of cash hidden inside.
Most of us would freak out. Then we'd try to figure out what to do. Is it wrong to keep money that came in a piece of furniture? Does it depend on the amount? I mean, a few quarters that fell out of someone's pocket is one thing, but tens of thousands of dollars is entirely another.
A woman in Colton, California, was faced with that exact scenario recently when she brought home a free, used sofa from Craigslist. Vicky Umodu had just moved into a new house and was looking for items to furnish it when saw a listing on Craiglist from a family who was clearing out the property of a relative who had recently passed away, KABC-TV reported. They were giving the furniture away for free.
"So, I clicked on it, and the first thing I came up with was this family that wanted to give a sofa, and everything in their bedroom set," Umodu told KABC. "I said maybe it's a gimmick, so I called them."
She found out it was a legitimate ad and snagged a beige flowered sofa and two matching chairs. But when she got home and started examining the furniture, she felt something strange in one of the cushions. She thought perhaps it was a heating pad, but when she opened up the cushion she found a bunch of envelopes. And in those envelopes, she found cash—a whopping $36,000 worth.
"I was just telling my son, come, come, come!" she said. "I was screaming, this is money! I need to call the guy."
So she called. The family told her that they had found some other cash hidden around their relative's home, but only a hundred or two hundred dollars here and there. They didn't know why the man would have stashed $36,000 in his couch, but they were grateful to Umodu for alerting them and returning the money.
So grateful, in fact, that they gave Umodu $2,200 of the money—the amount she needs to buy herself a new refrigerator.
Umodu was delighted, but she said she hadn't expected any reward. "I was not expecting a dime from him," she told KABC.
She was never tempted to keep the money for herself, either.
"God has been kind to me and my children, they're all alive and well, I have three beautiful grandchildren, so what can I ever ask from God?" she said.
Clearly, the family had not intended to give away $36,000 of their family member's money. And it's unlikely that the relative who died had intended for his money to go to a random stranger (though who knows, stranger things have happened). Umodu did the right thing by letting the family know the envelopes of cash were in the furniture and returning the money. And now she's got a sofa, two chairs, money for a new fridge and the peace of mind that comes with being an honest person.