Noah Muroff of New Haven, Conn., returned a desk he bought on Craigslist to its original owner after finding $98,000 in a plastic bag behind its drawers. (courtesy WTNH)
New Haven, Conn. -- A Connecticut rabbi who bought a used desk on Craigslist for $150 discovered that it wouldn't fit through the door into his study. As he took the desk apart to get it inside, a bag containing $98,000 fell out.
Noah Muroff's windfall did not last long. The next day, with his four kids along, he took the money back to the desk's original owner.
The woman "was totally speechless" when she got a call from Muroff at 11:30 p.m. that night to let her know what they had found.
"She was so shocked and touched that anyone would call," he said. "She said, 'You could have kept the money and nobody would have ever known.'"
Muroff, of New Haven, Conn., bought a desk for his study on Craigslist for $150 and went with his wife to pick up the piece of furniture from the owner's house, he told ABCNews.com.
He loaded the desk into his minivan, but found it was too large to fit through the room's doorway. So the couple took the desk apart to get it inside.
When they removed the two filing cabinets from the desk, they found a plastic shopping bag between its drawers that appeared to have money inside, he said. Upon counting up the bills, the contents totaled $98,000.
"If we didn't take those drawers out, we never found have found it," he said.
Muroff, a rabbi who teaches ninth grade at Yeshiva of New Haven, said he and his wife immediately felt that they had an obligation to return the money to the desk's original owner.
"We both agreed that this is not our money," he said. "If God wants us to have $98,000, he'll make sure to give it to us in some other way."
Muroff said the woman, who he declined to identify, had mentioned to him that she bought the desk from Staples and built it herself a few years ago. The money was part of an inheritance she received and happened to have misplaced.
"She had put the money in the drawer, and thought she had taken the money out of the drawer a few months ago," he said. "She realized shortly thereafter that it was gone. She knew she wasn't robbed, she just thought it was somewhere in her house."
The next day, Muroff met with the desk's seller to bring her the missing fortune. He also brought his four young children along to teach them a lesson about "honesty and doing that which is right," he said.
Muroff said he and his wife agreed it was best not to take a reward for the good deed, but the woman presented them with a gift bag anyway.
Inside, she wrote a note and gave them back the original $150 they spent on the desk.
"I do not think there are too many people in this world that would have done what you did by calling me. I do like to believe that there are still good people left in this crazy world we live in. You certainly are one of them," the woman wrote. "I cannot thank you enough for your honesty and integrity."
Muroff, who bought the desk in early September, said the kind deed "made the Jewish new year all that much meaningful for me."