Lost, Found, and Returned: 15 $100 U.S. Savings Bonds

On 2 July 2012, Nick Miranda found a red, white, and blue envelope in the basement of a house that he had just rented in Buffalo, New York. The envelope was underneath the cover of an old ironing board in the basement, and on the envelope was written this note: “From Mom, to Michael.” Inside the envelope were 15 $100 U.S. savings bonds that had been bought in May 1984, Mr. Miranda, age 29, said, “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I should throw them out or try to give them back to the people they belonged to.” He made an Internet search of Lucille Rinaldo and Michael Ortalano: the two names on the savings bonds. After two hours and approximately 50 telephone calls, he reached Thomas Ortalano, who is Michael’s brother and one of Lucille’s sons. Mr. Ortalano, age 57, said, “He’s a very, very honorable young man. I won’t ever forget him. Not because of the monetary value, just for the honesty of it, just for doing the right thing. Anyone else could have torn them up and thrown them out.” Ms. Rinaldo, who died in 2011 at age 80, and her family used to live in the house that Mr. Miranda just started renting. In 2005, her son Michael died of a heart attack. Thomas Ortalano said, “Lucy was the best. My mother would never turn a person away. If someone was hungry, she fed them. She was Sicilian and she could cook. Her sauce—oh, my God—her sauce was amazing, and she never followed a recipe in her life.” Mr. Miranda gave Mr. Ortalano the savings bonds. Mr. Miranda said, “I didn’t have the intention of keeping them. I just wanted to do something good. I know they were probably valuable to the person they were meant for.” Mr. Miranda said of Mr. Ortalano, “He’s a good guy. He told me he’s going through a tough time right now, so hopefully that will make a difference.” Mr. Ortalano is on disability. The savings bonds are worth perhaps about $3,000, and it will take some work to cash them in. McKayla Braden, a spokesperson at the Bureau of the Public Debt, which is part of the Treasury Department, said, “It’s a long process to prove that you’re the rightful owner unless your name is on the bond. But I think he can, if he can prove he’s the next of kin. He’s going to have to come up with death certificates, and it takes a little bit of time.” Mr. Miranda went through the basement one more time. He said, “I found a safe and opened it, but it was empty.”

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