NEW YORK — A New York City cabbie said he returned a lost purse containing more than $21,000 in cash and expensive jewelry because his mother always advised him to be honest.
"I'm broke, but I'm honest," 28-year-old Mohammad "Mukal" Asadujjaman said Tuesday.
Felicia Lettieri, of Pompeii, Italy, and six relatives had taken two cabs from midtown Manhattan to Penn Station on Christmas Eve. The 72-year-old Lettieri left her purse behind, with more than $21,000 of the group's traveling money, jewelry worth thousands more, and some of their passports.
Police advised the tourists they had little chance of recovering the lost goods.
Felicia Lettieri returned to Pompeii and could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Her sister, Francesca Lettieri, 79, of Patchogue, told Newsday the honest cabbie had saved her family's vacation, and said "We really love what he did."
The cabbie, a native of Bangladesh, saw the rolls of euros when he opened the bag to look for an address, but didn't even count the money. "My mother is my inspiration," the soft-spoken cabbie said. "She always said to be honest and work hard."
The cabbie called a friend with a car and drove some 50 miles to a Patchogue address in the purse. No one was home, so Asadujjaman left his cell phone number and a note. His phone rang a short time later and he drove back to return the bag.
"They were so, so, so happy," Asadujjaman beamed.
The immigrant is a full-time student at a city college near his apartment in Jamaica, Queens. He began driving a cab a few days a week about three months ago, after his hours were cut back at a former factory job.
Asked if he was tempted to keep the cash, Asadujjaman acknowledged the money would have allowed him more time to study, "but my heart said this is not good." He also turned down a reward, saying he could not accept it as an observant Muslim.
"I'm needy, but I'm not greedy," said Asadujjaman. "It's better to be honest."