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[whitespace] WG student returns lost wallet that held $3,400

Seventh grader gets $100 reward for doing honest thing

Willow Glen--A Willow Glen Middle School student was surprised to find a wallet containing a small fortune lying in the road on March 8.

But the wallet's frantic owner was even more surprised when the student returned it to her intact.

Seventh-grader Joseph Pineda tracked down the wallet's owner after finding the wallet in the street earlier the same day--stuffed with $3,400 in cash.

"I wouldn't have liked it if I'd lost that much money," Pineda said. "I'm just happy I did something. It made me feel good."

Pineda, who lives in Willow Glen, was with his mom at about 2:30 p.m., on the way to his sister's baseball game, when they stopped at the Chevron station on the corner of Lincoln and Curtner avenues for some gas and sunflower seeds.

Pineda spotted a wallet on the ground and picked it up.

"It had all these tire marks on it, because it was in the street," he said.

Pineda opened it up and saw that it belonged to a woman named Jennifer. He and his mom tried calling her, he said, but there was no answer. They finally headed off to the game with plans to call again when they got home.

Meanwhile, San Jose resident Jenny Lewis, 19, was frantically hunting for her lost wallet.

Lewis, who works full time and goes to school part time, had just moved out on her own, when another driver hit her car in early January. That day, she was finally going to return the rental car she'd been using since the accident, and pick up her own car from the body shop.

Lewis was at the Chevron filling up the rental car's gas tank when she placed her wallet on top of her car. Then she drove off, forgetting the wallet was on the roof.

Lewis realized what she'd done "just two minutes later," and immediately returned to the gas station, but the wallet was nowhere to be found. Everyone at the station helped her search for it, she said, and she even looked at the security tape. She saw herself place the wallet on the car and then drive away, but there was no footage of what happened to the wallet after that.

"I couldn't believe it was happening," Lewis said. She was carrying such a large amount of cash because she didn't have a checking account, and needed to pay at two different places for the car repair and rental car. Cash was her only option, she said.

"I was nervous about having that much cash on me," Lewis said. "I was afraid I would lose it."

Lewis finally called her mom and borrowed money from her to get the car back. She wasn't quite sure how she was going to pay her mom back, though.

"I didn't think I was ever going to get it back," Lewis said.

She was back home, calling the bank to cancel her bank card, when her mother called to tell her that someone had found the wallet.

Pineda got back to his house after the game at about 6:15 p.m. and immediately tried calling Lewis again. This time, he spoke to her mother.

"She sounded really worried on the phone," he said.

Lewis and her mother came right over to his house to pick up the wallet. Lewis was so grateful that she thanked Pineda with $100.

"He didn't take any of it," she said. "He did the totally honest thing. Lots of people wouldn't leave everything. My own roommate said he would've kept it. That's a special kid right there."

Interestingly enough, Lewis herself found a wallet containing $400 a couple of months ago, she said, which she returned intact to the police.

"Maybe it was karma coming around," she said.

Pineda said he was glad to give the money back to Lewis. Plus, he said, "I don't want bad luck. I don't want to go to a bad place when I die."

He had thought about using the $100 to buy some skateboard gear, but changed his mind.

"I'm going to save it and buy something I really want," he said, such as a snowboard or a motorized scooter.

His principal, Lois Allen, said she was proud of Pineda and his honesty.

"I think he's a hero," she said.
Kate Carter

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