Good Samaritan returns lost money

DOWNEY - What would you do if you found $480 lying on the ground?John Alva, 69, believes the answer is obvious - find the owner. "It's not my money," Alva said. "It could be someone's rent money or bill money…and that's a lot of money to lose in one whack." Earlier this month, Alva's sentiments were put to the test during a series of uncanny events that occurred after the longtime Downey resident discovered nearly $500 sprawled on the 8300 block of Telegraph Road in Pico Rivera. Alva, a Jehovah's Witness and member of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Pico Rivera, was in the car on Dec. 8, driving away from his church after a morning of door-to-door evangelism when he, and a fellow parishioner, saw the money scattered in the street. "Frank [Gierome] actually spotted the money first," said Alva, who was sitting in the passenger seat that day. "I jumped out of the SUV…it was a lot of money - four $100 bills and four $20 bills - spread out on the street. The first thing I thought was, 'oh no, someone has lost their rent money.'" Concerned for the owner, Alva searched locally, hoping to find someone who had recently lost a large sum of money. Finding no one, Alva took the money to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department station in Pico Rivera where officers were surprised to see someone turn in such a large amount. "I figured someone would be looking for it in desperation so I reported it," said Alva who then nailed up a large sign not far from where he discovered the cash. "It said, 'money found, call the sheriff's department.'" Two weeks later, Alva got a call. Interestingly enough, the large sum belonged to Aaron Jordan, son of Pastor Steve Jordan of Cornerstone Christian Worship Center, located at 9001 Paramount Blvd. in Downey. The 26-year-old had recently raised the $480 through the church to help fund his two-week mission trip to Haiti with a Christian campus ministry. Jordan, who was originally scheduled to leave for Haiti on Dec. 8, searched everywhere for the money, but had recently written off the idea of ever finding it. "I'm a witness - miracles do happen," said Jordan boldly. "It's unbelievable - kind of an amazing coincidence. I looked every which way it could be, but about a week ago I said a quick prayer, 'Lord, I need a good Samaritan.' And about three to four days later, I got the call." After spending months raising the funds for the trip, Jordan cashed the check given to him by the church, but then soon after, the money disappeared. Jordan believes an envelope holding the money may have come out of his suitcase, which at one point was in the back of his pickup truck. "It's just a miracle - first - that someone even found the money and - second - that they would turn it in," said Andrea Valenzuela, an administrator at Cornerstone and Aaron's older sister. "The interesting thing is, the trip was postponed to 2011 due to political unrest in Haiti…so the money will still be used; it's been earmarked for the trip." Detective Jeff Grant, who facilitated the case for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said scenarios like this one almost never happen. "It was almost 500 bucks," Grant exclaimed. "If found by anyone else - it wouldn't have ended up at the sheriff's station." Ultimately, check stubs and bank receipts inside of the envelope, found by Alva, helped investigators link the money to Cornerstone Christian Worship Center. "The detective said, 'the money was found by the only honest person in Pico Rivera,'" said Jordan with a laugh. "But I'm extremely appreciative. I couldn't be happier, it was such a blessing." Nevertheless, John Alva believes he's no hero, but rather maintains he only did what was right. "I'm very happy he got it back…to lose that much money at one time is very difficult. No one has ever given me $480," Alva said jovially. "I'm glad the money was returned - that's the important thing."

********** Published: December 30, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 37