Enquirer Herald

Charlotte man's wallet returned by Newport workers who found it in dumpster

There is a 73-year-old man in Charlotte who has his wallet back after it was lost - or stolen.

That alone is not remarkable.

What is incredible is that four working men with nothing to gain except goodwill helped this man get his wallet back.

"You do the right thing in life," said Frank Leone, one of the four guys. "It doesn't take a saint to be a good person."

The wallet was found in a Dumpster in a small commercial strip on Hands Mill Highway, just south of the Newport DMV office, on Nov. 3.

The day before had been rainy and nasty, yet Guillermo Guerra, an immigrant from El Salvador who works at White Tiger Furniture, took out the cardboard boxes from the Dumpster to break them down for compacting.

He did that because that is his job. He is a stockman, a laborer, with thick muscles and a smile that shines.

Once Guerra spotted the wallet, he dove into the muck at the bottom of the Dumpster to get it. Inside the soaked wallet were credit cards, medical information, personal information - all kinds of stuff that make up a life.

In the wrong hands, some criminal could buy anything with the stuff in that wallet.

Guerra, who speaks almost no English, did what stand-up guys of any nation and language would do - he tried to help a stranger whose picture is in the wallet.

"Somebody needed," Guerra said of the wallet.

He took it to his boss, Jim Wyatt, at White Tiger Furniture.

"I didn't know the name, thought maybe it looked a little like one of the guys who delivers parts to the transmission shop behind us," Wyatt said. "We would want to help the guy if we could."

Inside Hydra Tech Transmissions, owners Frank Leone and Mike Allen - who own the place but turn a wrench just like anybody else making a dollar in transmissions, guys whose whole life is work - looked at the soaked, ruined wallet.

Neither one recognized the face or the name on the North Carolina driver license.

Allen called detectives at the York County Sheriff's Office to make sure there was no missing person or crime attached to the wallet.

"All we knew was that somebody was missing it," Allen said.

The guys talked about how, just weeks before after a fishing trip, Leone's wife had left her purse in a restroom at a gas station off Interstate 77. A group of Vietnamese immigrants had found the purse and turned it in intact - with not a coin missing.

"It had just happened to us," Leone said. "Someone doing the right thing."

So these two guys took some note paper and wrote a short note to the face and address on the wallet. The note said they had the wallet, and invited the man to come get it if he could identify it. They mailed it off to Charlotte with a 44-cent stamp.

On Friday, the 73-year-old wallet owner came to the transmission shop with a story of his own.

He told Allen and Leone how he had stopped the day before the wallet was found to help two stranded motorists who had run out of gas.

The man had left his wallet on the seat, and it either fell out or - God forbid - was stolen by one of the people he tried to help. The man had already canceled his credit cards and all the things people have to do when a wallet is lost.

The garbage bin sits between where the man stopped to help the motorists and a gas station just down the road.

"We figure that maybe they swiped the wallet and looked for money and threw it away," Allen said.

Leone and Allen said taking a few minutes to try to help somebody is always the right thing to do.

The man picked up his wallet Friday, and he tried to give the good guys some money for their good deed.

All declined.

Mike Allen put it this way:

"It only costs 44 cents to do the right thing for somebody."