A Christmas Miracle! Upper West Sider Finds, Returns Bag Containing $10,000

The found cash laid out on Taverna’s kitchen table

By Joy Bergmann

Richard Taverna had finished with his usual workout at the YMCA and was headed back home to 107th Street when he noticed the blue Chanel purse sitting against the wall of the northbound 1 train platform at 66th and Broadway around 11:30 on Thursday morning.

“I picked it up and had a quick look to see if there was any identification with it,” the retiree, 63, tells WSR. “I just saw a piece of paper with some Russian writing on it.” Knowing there’s not an MTA agent posted on that side of the station, he popped the purse in his gym bag, planning to investigate further or perhaps bring it to the southbound platform agent the next morning.

“Then I got tied up and forgot about it until I was getting ready for bed.” Taverna pulled out the purse and discovered that the piece of paper was actually an envelope containing 100 100-dollar bills. He told his wife he needed to go the police with the money. She quipped – noting the Russian script – that maybe Robert Mueller should be his first call.

Taverna took the purse and its contents to the 20th Precinct on Friday morning, but not before taking a snapshot of the greenbacks laid out on his kitchen table.

Was he tempted to keep the cash?

Nah. “I think most people would’ve returned it,” he says.

What was the NYPD’s reaction?

“I dare call it a Christmas miracle,” says Capt. Timothy Malin, commanding officer of the 20th. “The cops in the precinct couldn’t think higher of this guy.”

Turns out, a woman headed to Russia had reported the missing money to transit police right around the same time Taverna discovered it.

“We’re looking forward to telling her when she’s back in January,” says Malin. “It will be a nice surprise.”

NEWS | 38 comments | permalink
    1. Spence says:

      Oh please! Let there be more to this wonderful story!

      • D.I. Malin says:

        We’re hoping there is too… I’ve spoken to Mr. Taverna, and we’re going to try and have him meet the property owner when she gets back from her travels and we reunite her with the money.

      • Always Rushin' says:

        RE: “Oh please! Let there be more to this wonderful story!”

        Oh, sure! How’s about:
        1. “otmyvaniye deneg” (money laundering)for
        2. “amerikanskiy prezident” (American President); and
        3. “drug donal’da” (friend of Donald).

        “bol’shoye spasibo vam) Thank You Very Mush

        AND “spasibo mister gugl” THANK YOU, MR. GOOGLE

        • Jen says:

          Why this tirade? Because the woman was Russian? Isn’t it racist?

          • Cato says:

            — “Why this tirade? Because the woman was Russian? Isn’t it racist?”

            “Russian” is not a race.

            • Jen says:

              So you are saying it is ok to say something like this against a particular nationality if they happen to be white?

            • EricaC says:

              No, they’re saying that xenophobia and bias on the basis of national origin is a separate form of bias from racism. As any white nationalist will happily tell you.

          • Always Rushin' says:

            THANK YOU, Cato, for clarifying that.

            Isn’t it sad to think that the UWS-UL-UPC (UpperWestSide-UltraLibrul-UltraPC) crowd is so worried lest someone DARE offend Russia, a dictatorship determined to destroy us by sowing disinformation in order to disrupt our elections.

            • Jen says:

              It is not about offending Russia, it is about offending an idnvidual who happens to be Russian. Your statement is similar to Trump’s enabling people spit out hate against Mexicans and other Latin nations. You decided that offending a Russian individual is totally ok. It is not ok to bash anyone solely because of their nationality or ethnicity in case you think xenophobia is ok if applied to certain nations only.

    2. Elisabeth Anderson says:

      Great story of honesty!

    3. Elisabeth Anderson says:

      This story shows how many New Yorkers will do the right thing!

    4. Elisabeth Anderson says:

      How could anyone let this much cash out of their sight!

      • Seth says:

        If most of us were carrying 10K around, we’d be literally clutching it to our chests.

        This money’s owner evidently didn’t value it so highly. I’m presuming an oligarch who owns property midtown or in Trumplandia along Riverside.

        It’s the right thing to do to return it. But if this person had quietly given it to a worthy charity, that would have probably benefit humanity more overall.

        • Jen says:

          So the fact it was in an expensive bag signifies that this person didn’t need it as the “rest of the humanity?” What if she was trying to help a sick relative? But even if she wasn’t, who are you to decide how to spend someone’s money?

    5. Pam says:

      Why would anybody in their right mind.. travel with 10K in CASH??
      Hmmmm..

      • Young Sally says:

        That is was exactly 10k is interesting because it may be the maximum amount of cash one can travel with (legally) without raising concerns about money laundering.

        • m.pipik says:

          You can only take $9999 out of the country. And this is the same maximum that you can take out of a bank at one time.

          I’ll bet the US government has some questions about this money.

          • Jen says:

            Huh? You can take any amount from the bank if you are closing the account. You are allowed to take much smaller than 10k amount in a lot of banks. You can take bigger than 10k in lots of other banks as well.

            And the statement about UK government being interested in transactions bigger than 10k? Where did that come from? Most people in the area monthly credit card bills are greater than that. This is some jealous xenophobic comment.

            • EricaC says:

              If you look at the regulations in place to prevent money laundering, cash transactions over a certain level must be reported to the government in most jurisdictions. In the US, $10,000 is an important threshold (or smaller transactions that add up to $10,000). It isn’t xenophobic . . . .

    6. Juliet says:

      Leave it to Joy to unearth a true (and very timely) miracle!

    7. Carole says:

      Baruch Hashem

    8. Penelope says:

      Amazing! First, this man must have had a full fledged shock when he opened the bag has picked up casually in the subway, and then taken it to the policer station untacked. Second, what was a woman doing carrying $10,000 in cash to Russia…

    9. Jenji says:

      I agree with Penelope…
      What was she doing with all that cash?
      As for the cops telling her when she comes back, we assume she’s going to make it back…
      You don’t go home to to Russia empty handed with a missing cargo like that,

    10. ZoomZ says:

      An only in NYC story.
      Sad to say but me think 5 out of 10 people would have kept the $$$.
      To answer a few questions raised here:
      Why wouldn’t the woman carry cash to Russia? Plenty of people traveling to the US carry cash, and the good old green buck is good all over the planet.
      happy Holiday & New Year one and all.

    11. Glitter says:

      I wouldn’t have given it back. I’m the worst

      • nyc10023 says:

        I’d like to say I’d do the same thing.

        But I don’t know if I would have.

        I’d probably still be struggling with it at this very moment.

        (only because of the Russian note inside. If there was ID or anything else inside that could lead me to the person I wouldn’t hesitate. Only a note written in Russian on the other hand…)

    12. MM says:

      No one has mentioned the Chanel bag. Who leaves their Chanel bag sitting around in a subway platform?

    13. Tom says:

      $10000 is the max amount of cash you can bring into Russia without declaring it. It’s normal for Russians to do this as it’s the cheapest and most reliable way to bring money into Russia.

      I’m in Moscow, If you have her contact I can inform her.

    14. Brenda says:

      Is it really that unusual to return something that is not yours? For real?

      • B.B. says:

        As befitting New York State, a place where almost everything outside of breathing is regulated or whatever; no, you cannot “find” things of great value and legally keep.

        Laws are quite clear:

        “any person who finds lost property of the value of twenty dollars or more or comes into possession of property of the value of twenty dollars or more with knowledge that it is lost property or found property shall, within ten days after the finding or acquisition of possession thereof, either return it to the owner or report such finding or acquisition of possession and deposit such property in a police station”

        “any person who shall refuse or wilfully neglect to comply… shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.”

        Of course people find and keep things on streets, buses, in taxis, or whatever of New York all the time. But that doesn’t change the law, and if somehow caught the owner of said property could press charges.

        Consider also many subway stations have cameras. Do you really want to see yourself in one of those NYPD news media releases about a “wanted” person?

        IIRC the woman had already alerted NYPD/MTA about loss of bag. All they would have to do is same as with other “crimes”. Start looking at footage from cameras within subway station, or various buildings.

        A man carrying a Chanel bag wouldn’t be hard to pick out of a crowd.

        Will grant you this is a tough call. So many people living paycheck to paycheck, and it being the holidays. Can’t say I’d blame someone of they found that purse and had themselves a Merry Christmas.

      • Cato says:

        New York State law requires that

        “any person who finds lost property of the value of twenty dollars or more or comes into possession of property of the value of twenty dollars or more with knowledge that it is lost property or found property shall, within ten days after the finding or acquisition of possession thereof, either return it to the owner or report such finding or acquisition of possession and deposit such property in a police station or police headquarters of the city where the finding occurred or possession was acquired”. NY Personal Property Law section 252 subd. 1.

        The same statute provides that any person

        “who shall refuse or wilfully neglect to comply with the provisions of subdivision one or subdivision two of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.” (Subd. 3).

        So, for whatever it’s worth, you’re required to turn in found property worth more than $20 to the police, if you can’t identify the owner. It’s a misdemeanor, with possible fine or imprisonment, not to turn it in.

        How often has this been enforced? I have no idea. But turning in lost property is not simply a moral decision to be made by the finder — it’s the law.

    15. geoff says:

      ten thousand dollars is what was photographed and turned over to the police. who knows how much was actually found?

      • EricaC says:

        Cynic!

        But if he found more, then turned it in, wouldn’t he be caught when the owner finds out what he turned in?

    16. Cato says:

      It would be interesting to know the translation of the Russian note that accompanied the $10,000. Some possibilities:

      — “Uncle Vanya, please use this to help pay the mortgage on the farm.”

      — “Sergei, here is your share of the proceeds of the bank robbery.”

      or

      — “Nikolai, put this towards next month’s rent at our new Upper West Side apartment.”

    17. Sandra Clark says:

      Very well written story Joy Ann!! Interesting comments. I like the story without the cynicism.

    18. peter brandt says:

      helps me to restore some faith in humanity !

    19. LK says:

      Joy, thank you for the article. Good to see our neighbor doing the right thing. Just like finding the purse was a test for Richard, the article has become a test for many of the readers. I would like to commend Jen for standing up tirelessly to several commentators expressing their vile opinions. She and EricaC called those people out while it was very convenient to just do nothing ( as seen in the lack of comments sharing Jen’s view point ). Gloating about someone’s losses (*especially* based on the nationality or perceived wealth and/or suggesting how to spend their money) is un-American and, hopefully, unwelcome in this neighborhood.