You stumble across $2,000 in an unmarked envelope.
Do you keep it?
It happened to Thomas Henry George, a resident of the Lummi Reservation, last year at a U.S. Bank in Bellingham. He’s now in jail because he spent the cash for himself.
On the afternoon of May 27, 2014, Mehrab Khoshbakht withdrew $2,000 cash from another downtown bank, then walked into the U.S. Bank on Holly Street to open an account for his new auto dealership on Guide Meridian. For a few minutes he sat in the lobby and, when a clerk came to get him, he accidentally left the envelope full of cash on the table.
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Security footage shows George, 57, and a woman sit down at the table a quarter of an hour later. She leafs through a magazine for a few seconds, until she finds the envelope. She looks at it, looks up at George, and hands it over to him. He peeks inside. He gets up and looks around. She scans the room, too, and nervously brushes at her hair.
Together they walk toward the other side of the bank. They split up. George drinks at a water fountain and looks around the room for about a minute. Then a clerk comes to get him, and they talk at her desk. Six minutes later, George leaves.
Khoshbakht came back to the table about 20 minutes after George left, looking for the cash. A clerk asked if he might have forgotten the money someplace else, but Khoshbakht was confident he left it on the table. So the bank checked the security footage and, sure enough, found the video of a Native American man taking the envelope.
George didn’t end up opening an account that day.
Police tracked him down in July. A detective asked if he’d taken the money. George wouldn’t say. However, once the detective asked if there was any money left, George said no.
He was charged in November with theft in the second degree.
George has a criminal history — forgery, possession of stolen property in the first degree, two counts of theft in the third degree, 11 instances of shoplifting, 17 misdemeanor driving offenses — dating back to the early 1980s.
George pleaded guilty as charged last week, and Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis sentenced him to four months in jail. He remained in jail this week. George, who told the court he does construction work, expects to be able to pay back the $2,000 in restitution.