Broke Teacher Returns Lost Backpack Containing $6,000 in Cash: ‘People Have to Be Honest’

September 4, 2020 Updated: September 4, 2020

Spanish teacher Leo Nicaragua, from Rockledge, Florida, has inspired his fellow staff and people online for his honesty. Nicaragua found a backpack on the street containing a large amount of money in cash. Rather than pocket some or all of the money, the teacher did the right thing and set out in search for the bag’s rightful owner.

His rationale was inspiringly simple: “This is called honesty and people have to be honest,” he said.

Nicaragua found the red “Ferrari” backpack in the middle of a crosswalk used by students and fellow teachers from John F. Kennedy Middle School, News 6 reported. School had just been dismissed for the day on Aug. 27, and Nicaragua assumed it wouldn’t be long before someone came searching for the missing bag.

However, nobody picked it up.

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The crosswalk outside John F. Kennedy Middle School in Rockledge, Fla. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

The Spanish teacher decided to investigate. He retrieved the backpack and opened it to reveal a huge surprise: $6,000 in cash inside. Rockledge police later discovered an additional $15,000 in the form of a check inside the bag, plus three vehicle deeds, two boxes—one containing medical masks and the other latex gloves—and Lysol disinfectant wipes.

“I see a big pile of money and I’m like, ‘No, this is not a student’s bag,’” the teacher recalled of his surprising find. “So I got all scared and put the money back.” Nicaragua took the bag to the school resource officer, who promptly called the authorities.

Coincidentally, on the very same day, the Spanish teacher’s bank had sent him an email explaining that his balance had hit zero. But the state of his personal finances didn’t cloud Nicaragua’s judgment for a second.

“[T]here was not one instant that I thought I need this money for me,” he said. “The minute I saw the money, I thought, ‘Someone lost this money and someone needs to get their money back.’”

The backpack’s rightful owner, who remains anonymous, was located after a brief search. The bag’s surprising contents were explained by the fact that the man was a business owner who was about to reimburse his employees.

The sum of hard cash amounted to one month’s pay for his several employees, he said, and the bag went missing in the street after he placed it on top of his car at the local gas station. He forgot to bring the bag back inside the car before driving away.

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John F. Kennedy Middle School in Rockledge, Fla. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

The backpack was returned with its full contents accounted for. Nicaragua didn’t take a penny. “People don’t need to be rewarded or anything for things they should do,” the teacher protested, admitting that some of his friends have hailed him as a hero.

All the same, the Spanish teacher may yet receive a reward from the backpack’s grateful owner, who stated his intention to call Nicaragua and offer him something as a gesture of gratitude.

John F. Kennedy Middle School faculty showed their support for their Spanish teacher on Facebook after news of his honest deed began to circulate, posting “Panther Pride!” beside a photo of the headline-worthy backpack on Sept. 1.

One parent online responded to the post:

“I was just talking to my teen today about the meaning of ‘taking the high road,’ which is directly related to ‘doing the right thing,’ which is exactly what Mr. Nicaragua did!

“I told my kid that the benefits are two-fold, #1 People will respect you. #2 (and most importantly) You will feel good about yourself & there’s no better feeling than that!”

Replying to the notion that Nicaragua’s efforts were heroic in any way, however, the teacher remains modest. “No,” he said, “this is what people have to do.”

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