James and Charlene Esparza reading a thank you note. Valley Daily Post photo
The Good Samaritan Of La Mesilla
When James Esparza of La Mesilla was taking his usual morning walk Thursday he didn’t anticipate anything unusual. But this past Thursday as Mr. Esparza was walking he discovered a clear bag that contained over $4,000 in cash and change lying on the side of the road near the Dream Catcher Theater.
The found bag of cash. Valley Daily Post photo
“At first I thought it was just trash or someone dropped their insurance card, but when I saw it was full of envelopes with money I took the bag straight home and called the Sherriff’s office” said Esparza. Esparza added “My wife Charlene is always reminding me that we do the right thing and I knew what the right thing was. This is not my money and whoever owns it most likely really needs it.”
The money was needed. Johanna Keller, co-owner of a local business said that one of their employees apparently stopped at the location to take a cellphone call. The bag apparently fell out of his vehicle without him noticing when he opened the door and was found the next morning by Esparza.
Once Esparza called the Sheriff’s office, Sheriff James Lujan met with Esparza and examined all the contents of the bag. Among the cash was a receipt from Wells Fargo Bank. Sheriff Lujan visited the bank and asked them to help him locate the owner of the cash. Wells Fargo was able to identify Keller and her business as the likely owners.
Keller said they were just starting to look for the money when the Sheriff’s office contacted them and asked them to identify the missing bag.
Sheriff Lujan holding the bag and money.
Valley Daily Post photo
On Friday morning Keller visited the Sheriff’s office where the bag and cash was returned to her. She expressed a huge gratitude from her and her business to all people involved in returning the money. She also delivered a letter from the employee who had lost the envelope and asked the Sheriff to deliver it to Mr. Esparza and said this story is about the “Good Samaritan” and not about the owners of the cash.
Mr. Esparza and his wife Charlene arrived at the Sheriff’s office after Keller left and were given the envelope. When he opened it Mr. Esparza found a thank you note from the employee and a gift of $200 thanking him for his honesty. Mr. Esparza and his wife declined the cash, asking the Sheriff’s office to give it to a local charity saying that he turned the money in because “that’s what you do. I didn’t give it back to get paid.”
The declined reward. Valley Daily Post photo
We’ve got good people in the Valley and they would all do the same thing.” said Esparza, adding “We’ve got a good sheriffs’ department. I’m amazed how fast they were able to track down the owner of the cash.”