TRUMBULL, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man says it felt like he won the lottery when he discovered a bag with nearly $5,000 in cash lying in a parking lot. So, he decided to keep it.
Three months later, he has been charged with larceny.
It turns out the bag, which Trumbull Police said was clearly marked with a bank's insignia and found outside the same bank, contained cash from the town's tax department. There were also “numerous documents” inside identifying the rightful owner of the cash as the town of Trumbull, police said.
The man, Robert Withington, 56, of Trumbull, contends he didn't steal the money and didn't notice anything inside the bag indicating who the owner was.
“It’s not like this was planned out,” Withington told Hearst Connecticut Media. “Everything was in the moment and it was like I hit the lottery. That was it.”
The Associated Press on Tuesday left a message seeking comment on Withington's business cell phone. Other numbers listed for Withington were no longer in service.
The money went missing on May 30. Police said an employee in the Trumbull Tax Collector's office couldn't find the bag after arriving at the bank to make a deposit during regular business hours, according to a police news release. Over the next several months, detectives obtained search warrants, reviewed multiple surveillance videos from local businesses and conducted numerous interviews before learning the bag had been “inadvertently dropped on the ground outside of the bank” and Withington had picked it up.
“I walked out onto the parking lot, saw something on the ground and there was no one around so I picked it up,” Withington told Hearst. “It’s not like I stole something.”
“If I knew I was wrong in the first place, I would have given it right back. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” he added.
When police eventually interviewed Withington, they said he acknowledged being at the bank that day and taking the bag. He told them that he believed “he had no obligation to return the bag to its rightful owner,” according to the release.
Withington, who runs a dog training business, told Hearst he has never had a criminal record and his customers can vouch for his integrity. He was charged Friday with third-degree larceny, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. He was released on a promise to appear in court on Sept. 5.
“Anybody who knows me knows all I’m about is generosity,” he said. “After living in this town for 20 years, I’m not looking for trouble.”