A real estate broker from Colorado has shot to fame after relentlessly searching for the rightful owner of two envelopes containing $10,000 in cash, both of which he found at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
While returning home from his trip to “Sin City,” where he and his wife ran the Rock and Roll Marathon, Mitch Gilbert, 55, discovered the envelopes lying on a table before passing through security.
“I’m just standing there figuring someone will turn around and I can hand them their envelope, but no one turned around,” Gilbert told ABCNews.com. “I’m in Las Vegas. If I hold up the envelope and say, ‘Who lost money?’ everyone will say, ‘I did!’”
When minutes passed and no one came to claim their money, he put the envelopes with his own belongings and passed through security after which he cautiously told his wife what had happened.
Together, they waited 30 minutes by security, hoping to find the owner of the envelopes. However, when no one appeared, Gilbert took the envelopes with him on his flight and vowed to call the airport from home to resolve the situation and see if anyone had reported the envelopes missing.
When they got back to their home in Greenwood Village, he and his wife finally opened the envelopes and found $5,000 in each.
“I literally fell over. I was like, oh my God,” Gilbert said.
While many people would have kept the money, he decided it was only right to give the cash back to its rightful owner, who probably needed it to pay bills or help his family. He wanted to be a good example for his children as well.
Calling the airport’s lost and found the next day, the staff told him no one had reported any envelopes missing and informed him that that they could not help third parties.
Not giving up hope, Gilbert continued to call the airport back until he convinced officials to give his phone number to anyone who asked about the cash.
Approximately two weeks later, just days before Christmas, he received a phone call from Ignacio Marquez of El Paso, Texas, the man who had lost the money.
“I said, ‘I have every penny right here.’ He thanked me like five times, saying, ‘You don’t know what you’ve done for my family. This is the greatest Christmas present.”
Marquez knew how rare it was to get his lost money back, especially because it was in cash.
Offering him a $1,000 reward, the Texas resident insisted that Gilbert take the money, which he eventually accepted.
They arranged for the money to be deposited into Marquez’s bank account.
“When I went and made the deposit, I didn’t want the bank to think I was dealing drugs or something because it was a large amount of money,” Gilbert told The Christian Post.
For that reason, he walked up to the teller and shared his story, which others began overhearing. Eventually the news began to spread after someone at the bank called the local news station, which led to dozens of more interviews and spotlights.
It also led to a few emails from his ex-girlfriends whom he hadn’t spoken to in more than 20 years, he jokingly described.
“The truth is that I didn’t know this would happen,” Gilbert explained to CP. “I didn’t know the story would get so big.”
When asked if the publicity has been helping his own real estate business, he responded not currently, but believed in a more promising future.
“People will remember me as an honest man, which will help in the real estate business.” Like a car salesman, people only wanted to deal with those who could get an honest deal for them, which some now believed he would.
“I’ve had strangers call me from around the country saying that if they ever thought about buying property in Colorado, they would buy through me,” he added.
Wondering if he considered his story to be a Christmas miracle, Gilbert stated, “I would say that I wouldn’t have originally thought so, but now when I talk to so many people that tell me they would have kept the money, I would say that the guy’s very lucky that I found the money and not someone else. I find it more lucky than a miracle.”
The two strangers hope to one day meet each other; most likely the next time they are both in Vegas, he mused.