Working at a recycling plant isn’t a particularly glamorous job. Sorting through stuff like cans, paper and card is very important, but it isn’t all that interesting. However, what one man found on the plant conveyor belt surprised everybody.
Sean Holley was having a normal day at the Republic Services recycling center in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. But he was about to make an astonishing discovery that would make the news across the state. On that Friday in July 2017, Holley came across a safe on the center’s pre-sort line.
It wasn’t every day that something like a safe turned up on the belt, so Holley took a closer look. Consequently, he discovered a gym bag caught in the corner of the hefty metal box. Additionally, it seemed that the safe had been sawed open in an effort to get at the contents.
Holley stuck his hand in and managed to yank the bag free. However, as he did so, several receipts and a checkbook came loose and tumbled to the ground. Furthermore, a mysterious envelope also fell out, wrapped in a rubber band.
Instead of ignoring it, Holley reached down and picked up the envelope. And what he found inside took his breath away. Subsequently, Holley explained the situation to a FOX 9 reporter. “Wow! Yeah, you don’t see that every day,” he laughed.
Holley continued, “I thought, no way… I’ve seen this in the movies, but sure enough, there were plenty of $100 bills. Shocking, because I’ve never seen that amount of cash, never had $1,000 in my hand.” In reality, Holley had found an incredible $21,000 in the envelope.
Of course, this was an amazing discovery, but it immediately raised suspicions among the workers at the recycling plant. Obviously, the safe had been cut open by someone, and that amount of cash was strange. As a result, the workers reasoned it must be connected to a crime.
In light of the discovery, the workers called police to investigate. Eventually, the money was traced back to a grocery store called Casablanca Market some 25 miles away in Hopkins, MN. It turned out the safe had been stolen in a night time burglary.
Sergeant Mike Glassberg of the Hopkins Police Department told FOX 9, “[It] wasn’t exactly the most smooth group of burglars I’ve ever seen… And they didn’t leave the area right away. They kind of hung out there, looking at the safe which is kind of, again, unusual or they were looking at something in the back of the car which is presumed to be the safe.”
Like Holley, police noted that the thieves had used a saws-all to open the safe. Moreover, they had stolen only $10,000 of the cash inside, not realizing that there was more money in the envelope. These were the bills Holley found and handed over to police.
Even so, this was a crime that was brazen as well as fairly inept. It seems the robbery was carried out by three or four men who disabled the surveillance equipment at Casablanca Market. They then took the safe and carried it to the back of their car, a Nissan Armada.
However, the group had made a fundamental error during their heist. Although they had knocked out the store’s cameras, they failed to take into account other nearby CCTV. These cameras weren’t able to show the thieves’ identities, but they could capture the crime being committed and how the men did it.
With a third of the loot still unaccounted for, police are very keen to get this case solved. Ideally, they need someone to come forward. Accordingly, Sergeant Glassberg said, “What we want to get out there is there’s a $2,000 reward for information leading to the resolution of this case.”
The money is being put up by Casablanca Market and the Hopkins Police Crime Fund. Understandably, the store’s owners are keen to get their hands on the remainder of the stolen money. They and the police have offered $1,000 each.
In this case, police were very grateful to the recycling workers, including Holley, for turning in the money. Holley told the Star Tribune, “My motto is to do right by others, so we turned it in… It was a peculiar situation. I thought this had to be stolen. Nobody is going to throw 20 grand away.”
Due to today’s throwaway culture, workers at recycling plants and landfill sites often come across bizarre items. Despite the unusual nature of his find, Holley said, “That by far is not the weirdest thing come through on the line.” In other words, things could have gotten a lot stranger. In fact, other folk working with discarded things have similarly odd tales to tell.
One garbage collector from New York found so many interesting odds and ends that he was able to open a “secret museum.” Nelson Molina acquired almost 50,000 items from his 34 years on the job. To put it another way, he was a paid treasure hunter, and has put his wares on display.
Molina said, “Either these people don’t know the value of [this stuff] or they didn’t want it… If I didn’t take it out of the garbage, this would be in a landfill.” The 64-year-old proudly told journalists that all of the items in his secret museum came from the trash.
As a result of Molina’s efforts, the museum has become widely known among other sanitation workers, who bring items to add to the collection. Molina told PIX 11, “I want the New York City Department of Sanitation to get a nice building and open up a museum where they can put all this stuff.”
Ultimately, Molina wants to make his museum open to the public, though not in an effort to make money. Instead, Molina wants to show people how wasteful they are. “We throw away too many things,” he says. “New Yorkers need to recycle more and waste less.”