When Umodu spotted an article on Craigslist advertising free furniture, she said, she felt like she had hit a jackpot.
Then she learned that she had actually won a jackpot.
It was May 18, and she and her son, Oly Umodu, 29, had collected the free furniture and moved the pieces into their living room. Vicky Umodu said she felt something unusual as she placed the overstuffed cushion on an oversized cream-colored armchair. The seat cushion seemed off.
She thought there might be a heating pad inside, so she opened the pad, slipped her hand inside, and fumbled around.
“It wasn’t a heating pad, but I could feel there was a pile of paper,” she said. “When I took it out, I was shocked.”
The cushion was stuffed with bank deposit envelopes and manila-clasp envelopes filled with cash. Most had dollar amounts scribbled on them, as if someone had kept track of what was hidden inside, she said.
In all, over $36,000 in cash was hidden inside the barrel-back chair with a scalloped design that Umodu had picked up for nothing.
“It was a lot of money,” said Umodu, who declined to give her age but said she was in her 60s.
Although she could have used the money to buy more furniture and new appliances, Umodu and her son contacted the man who had given her the furniture. The man had kindly thrown away free kitchen utensils and other household supplies.
“I knew I couldn’t keep it,” Umodu said of the money, adding it wasn’t his. “I knew I had to give it back.”
She said the man had previously told them the furniture belonged to his late uncle and the family had decided to donate most of the items to people in need.
“We were so grateful to have the sofas and other items he gave us, like sheets and dishes,” Umodu said.
In fact, when she saw the furniture advertised as free, she suspected there might be a catch.
“I thought it had to be a gimmick,” she said. “But he was very nice and told us to come home.”
Umodu, who lived in Los Angeles County, said her husband died three years ago and she moved to be near her family.
“I had given away most of what I had before the move and was planning on trying to find some cheap furniture somewhere,” she said. “I was really happy when I saw the Craigslist ad online.”
The man who gave her the items came right away when she called to tell him of the windfall.
He said his uncle told another relative that he hid money in the house for several years, Umodu said.
The man, who asked not to be identified for privacy reasons, confirmed Umodu’s story to the Washington Post and said he searched the house for money after his uncle died .
He had found about $1,000 and with that he thought he had found all the hidden money.
“I was happy to help Vicky and put the furniture and other things to good use,” he said. “When she called me about the Craigslist ad, she said she had nothing and needed everything I posted.”
“My heart went out to her, but you also wonder if someone is going to turn around and sell everything for a profit,” he said.
When he went to Umodu’s house and saw that there was nothing inside except the furniture she had picked up from her uncle, it was a validation of his honesty, a- he declared.
“I was grateful that they really needed everything they took,” he added.
He said he was floored to get the call about the cushion stuffed with cash – a mix of $100, $50 and $20 that amounted to just over $36,000.
“I thanked her and her son profusely for being good people,” he said, noting that he had given Umodu $2,200 to buy a new refrigerator as a further sign of gratitude.
“They did the honest thing,” he said. “Today, it is a rarity. Not everyone would do that. »
Umodu said she learned the importance of honesty and kindness growing up in Nigeria.
“All my life, God has been good to me,” she said. “Even in difficult times, I felt blessed. It’s important to do the right thing in life.
She and her late husband immigrated to the United States in 1988 when she was pregnant with her first child, Umodu said.
While her husband ran a small business, she raised six children and worked as a registered nurse and midwife for several years. She also volunteered as a teaching assistant at her children’s elementary school so she could be close to them, she said.
“My kids are all grown up now, so my grandkids are my main focus,” Umodu said. “When my two oldest grandchildren are in school, I babysit the youngest.”
She said she was grateful to have a comfortable place to sit while she cuddled 6-month-old baby Jay.
“We are all very comfortable and appreciate the beautiful furniture that was generously given to us at a time when we really needed it,” Umodu said.
“No, I didn’t find any more money in the pillows,” she added with a laugh.
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