The Sideshow

New Jersey man returns wallet with $4,800 in cash

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow
Jersey City postal carrier Macario "Mark" Panuil
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Jersey City postal carrier Macario "Mark" Panuil, left, and Rev. Dr. Rudolph Daniels Sr., president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Jersey City and retired Pastor of Claremont-Lafayette United Presbyterian Church, pose for a photo after a ceremony on Thursday, March 13, 2014, at the Bergen South Station Post Office where Panuil was recognized by United States Postal Service officials for his honesty. Panuil found a wallet containing $4,800 while delivering mail on his carrier route and returned it to the reverend, its rightful owner. (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal/Landov)

What would you do if you found nearly $5,000 in a lost wallet on the sidewalk?

For most of us, it’s just a theoretical question. But New Jersey resident Marcario Panuil faced the real-life dilemma and decided to return the wallet and its contents to their rightful owner.

To get a sense of how unusual his selfless deed is, just scan the news and observe the number of stories about stolen wallets. Some estimates suggest that 1,000 wallets are stolen in the U.S. alone every two minutes. And an estimated 9 million Americans are victims of identify theft each year, often resulting from stolen wallets or credit cards.

The Jersey Journal reports that Panuil, a 20-year-veteran of the U.S. Postal Service, found the wallet containing $4,800 — all in $100 bills -- while on his delivery route in Jersey City.

"I need to give it back to the owner," Panuli told the paper when asked what was his first thought after finding the money.

In recent years, there have been other stories of returned wallets but none involved such a large amount of cash. Last year, a Canadian woman had her wallet returned 23 years after it went missing. In that case, there was no actual money involved but there were a number of priceless photos and even a birth certificate in the wallet.

And as it turns out, returning the wallet was not only a good decision in principle by Panuli, but his action also resulted in a touching, personal story.

The wallet’s owner, the Rev. Rudolph Daniels Sr., says he had withdrawn the large amount of money to give to his children as a late Christmas present. He says he lost the wallet while walking home in a snowstorm.

"I just assumed the money was gone," Daniels told the paper. "It was unbelievable. I was speechless."

After the Postal Service contacted Daniels to tell him his wallet and money had been found, the two men posed together for a number of photos.

Adding to his already impressive act, Panuil has refused to accept a reward from Daniels. However, the Postal Service did send him a letter of appreciation and a $100 gift certificate

"He's a shining example" Daniels, himself a formal postal worker, said.

Daniels said the experience also served as an example to him — mainly to not carry that much cash in his wallet.

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