A 19-year-old Latino teenager named José Nuñez stunned his family and the Albuquerque Police Department after returning $135,000 he found in front of an ATM. Nuñez went to the ATM on a Sunday and found a duffel bag full of cash in front of the machine. Because he couldn’t return it to the bank directly, he went right to the police.

José Nuñez finds $135,000 and does the unexpected…

“I went to an ATM to deposit some money to buy my grandfather some socks on the internet, when suddenly I saw a sealed plastic bag on the ground full of bills,” he said in an interview with Univision. When the police arrived at the scene, they “couldn’t believe that I was returning the bag with the money.”

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Following an investigation, the police determined that whoever was in charge of depositing the money into the ATM for the bank forgot one of the bags they were carrying. Nuñez says his parents always encouraged him to do the right thing no matter what. The values instilled in him by his family inspired him to keep a clean conscience.

Courtesy of Facebook (José Nuñez)

An officer with the Albuquerque PD named Simon Drobik said, “That money could have made a world of difference in anyone’s life, but José decided to follow the path of integrity and honesty.” When Nuñez went home to tell his parents about the money, they said “that it was the best decision.”

He added, “My mother has always told me, there are two ways to be in the news, one is by being honest and doing things right. The second is with your photo and a sign that says ‘Wanted’. I always prefer the first one.” Even though some of his friends and family members wondered why he did it, Nuñez is proud of his decision.

Nuñez comes from a family of hard-working Latino immigrants

Nuñez’s parents came from Mexico to the US in the 90s. They worked as day laborers for many years and are still struggling to establish financial security in the states. Although his mother is now a US citizen, his father is still working to get his papers and become a legal resident.

The family did not receive any government support during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also had to stop working for a while because of the stay-at-home orders. The family is still struggling to regain the business they lost during the pandemic.

“We sell mattresses in the streets,” Nuñez said, “but the mayor’s office told us that we couldn’t go out to work now. So we are at the expense of someone calling us to buy us a mattress.”

The teenager’s good deeds are not going unnoticed

A few days after Nuñez turned in the money, the Albuquerque Police Department honored him with a recognition ceremony for going above and beyond as a good citizen. The aforementioned mayor even made an appearance at the ceremony alongside a number of local officers.

Courtesy of Facebook (José Nuñez)

Nuñez didn’t walk away from the situation empty-handed, however. “They gave me $1,000 in cash, a card to eat at a restaurant, a football and some gloves signed by professionals, plus the New Mexico electric company donated $500 for my education,” he said.

The 19-year-old is currently in college and aspires to be in law enforcement upon graduating. A woman from Maine named Paula Matlins heard about Nuñez’s story on Facebook and offered to pay for his education.

“I do it because what José did motivates me to believe in a better world,” she said to Univision. “We need honest people with common sense in our public forces. I received financial aid from the government and I am willing to share it with him.”

As for Nuñez, he doesn’t regret his decision one bit, noting that he can sleep peacefully at night knowing he did the right thing.