BOULDER, Colo. — A man visiting from Egypt found $10,000 in gold coins in a suitcase he bought at a thrift store for his trip home and instead of keeping it, he spent an entire week tracking down the coins' original owner.
Ahmed Mohamed Fahmy Yousef was at University of Colorado Boulder for the academic year as a visiting faculty member. In preparing for his trip home, the researcher purchased a suitcase at a thrift store. When he got home, he noticed the suitcase wouldn't stay balanced. He opened up a pocket and found an envelope containing $10,000 in gold coins inside.
Yousef is Muslim and said his faith instructed him to give it back.
"You should deliver to the right person, whatever effort or time. So I follow my ethics," he told KDVR.
The researcher spent his final week at the university trying to find the coins' owner. The envelop had the name "James Noble" and an old address written on it. Yousef said he called 76 different people, vetting them and asking questions. For days, he didn't hear the answer he was looking for from the people he called.
Finally, he found Forrest Noble, the son of James Noble. Forrest Noble lived in Boulder.
"I received a phone call from a man who asked me if I was James Noble and that’s my father who passed away four years ago and I was definitely on guard with all the scam phone calls out there," Noble said.
"He said he had to meet me in person, which was odd, and I thought this is definitely a level up from the normal scam. I was like, 'OK, I’ll meet you in a public place.'"
The two met at a hotel. Yousef asked Noble a few more questions.
Noble explained how his mom had recently died and that he and his brothers were donating his parents items to thrift stores in the area. When Yousef heard those words, he knew he'd found the right person.
"He said, 'I have something for you' and he produced all these gold coins," Noble said. "He gave it back to me and I was like, I couldn’t believe it. I was crying. It was unbelievable."
Yousef called it "a fantastic experience."
The pair hopes their story changes people's perspective on those who practice Islam and on people from the Middle East.
"Something like this you hope breaks down those walls a little bit," Noble said.
Yousef said he is relieved he reunited Noble with the coins before he left the U.S. because he would have continued his search from Egypt, but it would have been more difficult.
"I am excited to live out this positive message about my country, about my religion," Yousef said.
He said if he didn't find the owner in his lifetime, the task would have been passed down to his children to complete.