Waiter turns over $45,000 in cash left at Applebee's in California

LOS ANGELES - An Applebee's waiter in central California turned over US$32,000 (S$45,222) in cash that a family forgot at a table, an amount that likely comes close to his annual salary, a restaurant official said on Friday.

Even as police praised him for his honesty, the 10-year employee of the restaurant chain has sought to remain anonymous and declined repeated requests to accept a reward from the family, Applebee's area director Carrie Hellyer said.

"He just said that he did it because it was the right thing to do and he didn't want the right thing being overwhelmed by anything else," Hellyer said.

The family left a canvas pouch stuffed with US$32,000, all in hundred-dollar bills, at an Applebee's restaurant in Fresno on Wednesday, said Fresno police spokesman Lieutenant Joe Gomez.

The waiter turned the cash over to his manager after discovering it at the family's table, and it was picked up by a police car later in the day.

When the family called police on Thursday to report the loss, arrangements were made for them to pick it up at the station, Gomez said.

Underscoring the waiter's honesty, Hellyer said there was no surveillance camera in the area where the family left their money.

The US$32,000 sum "probably exceeds or comes close" to the waiter's annual salary, she said.

Gomez said the money was returned to the family only after a detective determined it was obtained legally. The cash came from rental properties and a Mexican restaurant the family operates in the San Francisco Bay Area town of San Jose, he said. "You know how some people don't use banks, I think they're that type of person," he said.

The family had attempted to rent a safe deposit box at a bank on Wednesday, but one was not immediately available, he added. As a result, they had the cash with them at Applebee's when they went there to eat and simply forgot it.