Student Cuts Open Old Couch, Finds $40K Stuffed Inside


They Had To Decide

This was no normal, moral debate that they were having. It wasn’t about returning a lost or stolen bike, nor was it about giving someone’s wallet back. This was a lot more complicated.

This could change their lives forever. They had to think long and hard about it. This could make some of their wildest dreams come true, or it could bring the police to their doorstep. It was a risky choice, and it was insane to think that all of this started over some stupid sofa.

Spruce Up

SUNY New Paltz

For Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti, and Lara Russo, life was now all about moving on from graduation and heading toward life as full-fledged adults. It might have been a simple plan, but sprucing up their New Paltz, New York apartment seemed the best first step.

And what else did they need first but a sofa to give the place a homey feel?

Low-Cost Options

The Salvation Army Thrift Store wasn’t exactly where the trio had hoped to start. They had envisioned somewhere classy yet affordable.

But their wallets and bank accounts didn’t give them much choice. So, they took their measurements and scoured the furniture section for a sofa that would fit. Their eyes landed on a lumpy grey three-seater.

Just Cover It

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The three of them looked at each other with a mix of disappointment and desperation. It wasn’t what they wanted at all, but the measurements fit.

And it was a steal at a mere $20. Maybe they could cover it with a nice blanket? With a collective sigh, they decided to buy the frumpy sofa – having no idea what was hidden inside.

Too Bumpy

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For the first month, the three of them squirmed around the odd cushioning. They shoved and shifted to find any comfortable position to sit in. 

There were probably lumps of stuffing or pieces of upholstery inside. One day, Reese had had enough. She gave it a frustrated punch … and out came a popping sound.

What’s Inside?

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The night of bad movies and cheap popcorn came to an immediate halt. It was time. They had to know what kind of messed-up guts were inside. 

They unzipped the covers and found something very odd. They were rolls of bubble wrap – strange stuffing indeed. But when ripped one open, the three of them gasped.

Pay Day!

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Inside the roll rested a stack of 50 and 100-dollar bills. They pulled out roll after roll until a stack of over $40,000 sat on their table. 

The three of them screamed with joy, jumping up and down as if they had won the lottery. Cally reached in to find more, but what she pulled out next would shatter their dreams.

Big Hiccup

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The three of them had wanted to divide up the money. There was fervent chatter about paying off student loans, going on trips, and maybe getting something for parents. 

For any debt-ridden adult, it was an absolute miracle. But when Cally pulled out a bank slip … with a customer’s name on it, they wanted to cry.

Change In Plans

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They were now faced with a horrible moral dilemma. After calling the bank and confirming the name, there were certain the money belonged to someone. 

But was it just lost money or was the stack of cash hidden for more dubious reasons? After all, who would hide money this way? The answer was not only sad but shocking.

Sounded Unpleasant

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Reese took the first step and tracked down a phone number. He held the phone with shaking hands and waited for someone to pick up. The voice on the other end answered with a cranky “yes?”  

His question was simple, “Did you sell or give away a sofa recently?” The answer left the three of them with a bigger problem.

Give It Back!

“Yes, give it back now!” Whoever was on the other end of the phone clearly wasn’t a pleasant person. Still, it wasn’t right to let the odd string of events to end there. 

So, they got an address and made the long drive to Hudson Valley – having a long conversation about moral compasses and plans in case things went south.

Hard Times

Two women ran out of a tiny, rundown home to greet them when they pulled in. It wasn’t at all what they had expected. The two of them smiled with joy and gave everyone big hugs. 

It turns out they were the owner’s daughter and granddaughter. The visitors had no idea that they would have all the answers.

Last Of Savings

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The daughter explained how her mom and dad knew he would pass soon, so the mom had hidden away money every month because she knew she would have to have savings when her husband passed away.

This is where the story turned, and the daughter started to cry. Her mom had gone into the hospital with heart problems.

Good Deed Backfired

She had wanted to give her mother a surprise by fixing up the living room. So, without knowing the money was in there, she had gotten rid of the sofa and bought a new one. 

She was devastated – knowing she had literally thrown away the only money her mother had left. Another person joined the conversation.

Worth It

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It was the grandmother herself. She took one look at the pile of money and at the three guests sitting on the new sofa that had caused the entire debacle. 

The old woman rushed forward, burst into tears, and thanked them over and over. It was at that moment the three of them knew they had made the right decision. 

Frank D’Onofrio


But Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti, and Lara Russo weren’t the only ones to find something so life-changing in the most unlikely of places.

Las Vegas local Frank D’Onofrio was only looking to make ends meet when he uncovered something life-changing. But his joy wouldn’t last for long when he truly understood what his findings meant.

Living In Las Vegas


Frank made his living as a cleaner in Las Vegas, finding contracts to clear old buildings of debris, scrap whatever he could, and remove the rest. His occupation was a quiet one.

Although it didn’t rake in the big bucks as his friends called it, it was enough to pay his bills and put food on his table. But everything was about to change.

A New Contract


Frank had a contract to clear an old warehouse miles away from the city. The site had once belonged to a movie studio in the nineties.

The building was old, with no one having walked its dark halls for more than two decades. A new owner had just acquired it and needed it cleaned. That’s where Frank came in.

A Good Company


Frank’s little company was known for being thorough and professional. Frank had worked many years to build such an excellent reputation, thanking the heavens that the contracts he got, such as this one, were great.

With his gear packed in his truck, he hopped in the vehicle and drove to the site to begin his work. He didn’t know what he was about to find.

Time To Clean


After an hour on the road, Frank checked in with the warehouse’s supervisor before getting to work. He took out the equipment and gear to clear and clean the warehouse and hurried inside.

The place was moderately big, with a few offices filled with years’ old junk. But to Frank, most of the litter here could prove helpful. With everything set, he began cleaning the place.

The Cleaning Package


Included in Frank’s cleaning package was taking out all the debris from the places he cleaned. He started in the nearest office on the warehouse’s ground floor, working as he went.

Eight hours later, he was on the first and final floor, working in the last office in the warehouse. He had already found some valuable vintage items he could sell for profit. He didn’t know he’d find more.

The Painting


Frank was finishing up in the office when something caught his eye. There was a painting he’d ignored throughout his time in the office, hoping to collect it as he walked out.

“I felt drawn to it,” he shared, recalling the moment. There wasn’t anything striking about the painting apart from how big and inconspicuous it was. “It was hiding something.”

A Safe!


Frank pulled down the painting, and to his surprise, there was a safe behind it. It seemed old, judging from the chapped paint and rusty edges.

Still, Frank ran a hand against its dusty surface, wondering if it held something inside. What he’d find would leave him speechless.

A Curious Mind


As any curious mind in such a situation would do, Frank set his cleaning tools aside and examined the safe. He wondered if the locking mechanism was still durable after all the years the safe had spent hidden here.

He ran his hand against the 5 spoke handle and spun, looking to get a feel of the metal box. But something clicked, and the door creaked open.

It Stinks


The first thing out of the safe was a gust of foul air. Frank stepped back, a hand over his nose. But his sight landed on a stack of bills piled from the safe’s floor to its ceiling.

Frank couldn’t believe his eyes. He rubbed them, a smile taking his face without his knowledge. What was happening? Who could have let all this cash here?

One Hundred Dollar Bills


Frank started stacking the cash out of the safe, counting as he went. The money was in crisp one hundred dollar bills, with some fifties and tens thrown in for good measure.

Like Reese, Cally, and Lara, Frank realized he was dealing with a large sum of money. But unlike the three roommates, his amount had exceeded a hundred thousand dollars. But that wasn’t all.

The Bricks


Behind the vast stacks of money were several yellow bricks reflecting the evening light shining into the office. Frank wiped his mouth, realizing was the bricks were.

“Gold,” he mumbled. When he found the money, he thought about how all his problems no longer existed. All this debt would disappear, and he could finally expand his cleaning business. But the gold bars changed everything.

Where The Real Money Is


A gram of gold sells for seventy-seven dollars, while an ounce goes for two thousand. Frank was looking at hundreds of ten-ounce bricks, each valued at twenty thousand dollars. He would be far from wealthy!

He started collecting them, laughing hysterically as he forgot about all the plans he was making while counting the money. There was only one thing he could do with this amount of wealth.

Time To Tour The World


Frank had never considered going to a tropical island for vacation before. What stood before him had easily made him a millionaire.

He would fly out to the Caribbean and enjoy life while he was still young, maybe fly to Europe, go backpacking in Asia, or safari in Africa. He was still reeling from excitement when his eyes locked with something that made him step back.

The Truth Is Laid Bare


Under the bricks of gold were several documents, including invoices and receipts. Frank started going through them, hoping they were worth something. But the more he looked, the more his smile receded.

The receipts were for movie props the production house owned the warehouse had bought. It turns out the cash and gold bars Frank had just stumbled upon were fakes, props meant to be used in movies. With a shake of his head and a rueful smile, he returned everything to the safe.

Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.