Woman Who Left $10,000 on UWS Subway Platform Calls Good Samaritan ‘A Golden Person’

Aiya Tulemaganbetova thanking Richard Taverna

By Joy Bergmann

On Thursday afternoon, Aiya Tulemaganbetova expressed her gratitude toward the man who saved her Christmas by returning $10,000 she lost on a subway platform. Calling Richard Taverna “a golden person of great strength and honesty,” she presented him with a golden statue from her native Kazakhstan during a press conference at NYPD’s 20th Precinct.

WSR broke the Christmas miracle story last month and discovered new details today.

Tulemaganbetova, a real estate consultant and Upper West Sider from 61st Street, had spent the morning of December 20th running errands in anticipation of her first trip back to Kazakhstan in over a year. “I had to get to Michael’s [the craft/hobby store] before my flight that evening,” she said. “Everybody wants slime and glitter and things you can’t get in Kazakhstan.” She said she also packed $10,000 in her purse to share with her family and to purchase gifts there as fewer and fewer places in the region accept credit cards. Carrying too many bags and in a rush, she accidentally left her blue Chanel purse with the cash on the northbound subway platform at 66th and Broadway.

She rode the 1 train only one stop to 72nd Street before discovering her mistake. She immediately headed back to 66th, but by then the bag and the money were gone. Tulemaganbetova quickly filed a police report and managed to make her plane. Though she felt crestfallen during the flight, she said a prayer, “I hope whoever finds the money does something good with it.”

Unbeknownst to her, Richard Taverna, a retiree and Upper West Sider from 107th Street, had spotted the bag on the platform after his workout at the nearby YMCA. Once he discovered the $10,000 inside, he soon made his way to the 20th Precinct in hopes the rightful owner might be found. Officers there discovered the report of the missing money and notified Tulemaganbetova’s business partner who reached her with the good news less than 24 hours after the loss. “I was so happy!” she said. Seeking to pay forward this good fortune, she made a donation to a Kazakh children’s charity in Richard’s name.

The two embraced upon meeting for the first time Thursday afternoon. Taverna maintained his stance that his returning the money was no big deal. “I knew somebody was probably pretty upset and missing it,” he said. “I hope it inspires others.”

Taverna’s daughter, Elise, was alongside for the meeting. She wasn’t the least bit surprised her dad returned the money. “He always does the right thing,” she said.

“It’s not only the best of the Upper West Side, it’s the best of New York,” said Deputy Inspector Timothy Malin of the 20th Precinct.

Even hardened NYPD press representatives had to marvel at the sweetness of it all. “In 13 years of doing media, I’ve never done a story like this,” said Sgt. Carlos Nieves from the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information. “This was a gift.”

The found cash laid out on Taverna’s kitchen table before he took it to NYPD

NEWS | 16 comments | permalink
    1. Leon says:

      He is a really nice person to return it and she seems very gracious. But give the guy some cash, not a golden statue!

    2. AC says:

      Richard gets my vote for Upper West Sider of the Year!

    3. an american says:

      what exactly is this woman doing in our country, and why is she is carrying so much cash around?

      • sam says:

        the story explains exactly what she was doing – she was going home to visit family, and she was bring cash for them and to buy gifts once there because many places do not accept anything except cash in Kazakhstan. She was carrying the exact amount of money you can carry overseas without declaring it.

        This actually makes perfect sense.

        Not everyone lives in places with reliable banking systems.

    4. Kramsman says:

      Who knew you can’t get slime and glitter and things in Kazakhstan?

    5. Ronnie Tuft says:

      Inspiring and heartening. Beautiful people!

    6. Peter says:

      “Everybody wants slime and glitter and things you can’t get in Kazakhstan.” And ten thousand dollars. Don’t forget the ten thousand dollars.

    7. Asha says:

      What a wonderful story! Only if more people could be so honest like Mr Taverna!

    8. jo baldwin says:

      More money leaving the USA. There must be more to this story.

    9. David says:

      She probably was very involved with making sure she was texting her surname properly that she didn’t realize she had left her bag on the platform.

    10. Eva says:

      Why does even the most heart-warming story have to get so many ugly comments from readers?

      • Susan says:

        Growing up in the 50s and 60s it seemed that everyones’ parents taught their kids to be honest. So many people seem to be shocked when someone does the right thing. Mr. Taverna did the right thing. People with families in places like Uzbekistan often take cash to their families who desperately need it. This has been going on for American immigrants ever since the U.S. dollar has been the world standard of exchange. People who are born here have no idea what foreign-born Americans do to help families left behind. Anyone born here should count their blessings.

    11. Howard Freeman says:

      One of the best parts about New York and about humanity.

    12. CZ says:

      This is so sketchy on every count. Amount too large to be legally deposited at any bank. She claims it was designated as money for Xmas gifts for her kids back home in a place “too poor” to accept credit cards. Chanel bag on platform! Can you say, “Russian investigation”? Looks like a drop. Who takes the subway with this kinds of cash? And who carries this kind of cash?

    13. Jason says:

      She had left the money there for Don Jr, or Eric and this guy got it before they could.