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Wednesday
Aug312011

Wayne Sabaj Finds $150K in Garden

Martin Poole/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Wayne Sabaj may have one of the greenest thumbs around. The unemployed Illinois man wandered into his garden and unearthed a crop of cash -- about $150,000 worth.

"Now what do I do with this?" Sabaj wondered.

He was making a pork roast that night and wanted something to accompany it so he went out to his garden. It's a farmer's delight and has everything from beets to onions to sprouts. As he searched for broccoli, he instead found a bag full of cash, nestled among the peppers.

He took the discovery back inside to his father, Mitchell. But while some may have been delighted at the find, the younger Sabaj was disheartened.

"We're in trouble now," Sabaj told his father. He was worried that the money may have come from a bank robbery and didn't want anything to be pinned on him. So he called the sheriff's office in McHenry County, Illinois, to come pick it up.

When they arrived, they found another bag almost in plain view. Sabaj stood by his decision to let them take the money back to the station, where the contents' total worth was determined to be $150,000.

"I'm sure Wayne was battling with moral decisions at that point, " said Lt. James Popovits of the McHenry County Police.

Sabaj's moral dilemma was probably even more tortuous because he, like about nine percent of the country's population, is unemployed.

He used to work on million-dollar homes as a carpenter. Now, he says, that market has dried up and jobs are sparse. He currently is living with his father. But despite his financial struggle, Sabaj said turning in the money was the right thing to do.

"That could have been somebody's life savings, you know? That wouldn't be fair if I just kept it," Sabaj told ABC News.

Now this isn't an everyday occurrence in the unincorporated McHenry County. In fact, authorities have no idea of where the money came from. They have determined that there were no residential or commercial burglaries in Illinois where the money could have originated. Now they are checking with other states and are testing the money for forensics.

According to Popovits, they are searching for the owner, even leaving a note in the spot where the money was found. But if that owner never comes and a source for the cash is never determined, the money could go back to the man that found it first, Sabaj.

It would not be a quick process. The money would have to go unclaimed for a year and, even then, Sabaj would have fill out extensive paperwork before the money is his.

That is assuming he still wants it. Police have suspicions that the money was not legally gained.

"Let's just say it [money] wasn't found in bags typically used for storing money," said Popovits.

Sabaj said he doesn't think about the money much.

"I don't even think I'll get it back and even if I do, the government's just going to take a third of it back," Sabaj joked. "You just can't worry about it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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