Single mother of five gives back $120,000 cash

Saturday, September 8, 2001

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Wanda Johnson, a mother of five, was driving to pawn her television for $60 to pay her electric bill when temptation fell from the back of an armored car.

She stopped in traffic to scoop up the plastic sack that had fallen into the street. Inside, she found $120,000 in cash.

"I'm like, well, this must be the answer. I'm going to keep it," Johnson said. "Then I'm like, no, don't do that. It's not yours. It's not right."

Johnson, 34, struggled to make a decision during the rest of her Tuesday shift as a housekeeper at Memorial Hospital. Finally, four hours after stumbling onto easy money, she called police to return it.

"What she did took a lot of courage, a lot more courage than most people have in this world today, said Warren Smith, armored car supervisor for EM Security of Savannah, which was transporting the money from a bank vault.

The cash bundle of $5, $10 and $20 bills was to be used to stock ATMs.

During the trip, a compartment door on the truck fell open. Johnson, driving behind the truck on her lunch break, saw the money bag fly into the air. While other cars swerved to avoid it, she stopped to pick it up.

Johnson said she didn't open the bag immediately. But on the outside someone had written in marker the words "deposit" and "$120,000."

Johnson returned to work and stashed the cash under the back seat of her car. After her shift, she peeked inside and saw a smaller plastic bag stuffed with stacks of $20 bills.

Johnson said she drove to her pastor's house, looking for encouragement to do the right thing. They talked and prayed, then reported the missing money. Another armored car escorted by police and FBI agents arrived within 20 minutes to retrieve it.

"It's not like she waited four or five days until her conscience got the best of her," said police spokesman Bucky Burnsed. "What she did, she did immediately. And I think that is phenomenal"

Johnson will receive a reward for her honesty, said Smith. He declined to specify the amount.

"We're going to make sure that she's well taken care of," Smith said.

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