An honest little old lady turned in $100,000 to bank authorities that she and her beau found in a safety deposit box, but now she’s wondering where the funds have gone off to – and wants a cut.
The Daily News’ Denis Hamill broke the story, reporting on longtime Borough Park resident Kathleen Ricigliano, 81, and her boyfriend, Joe Valinoti, and their discovery of $100,000 in a safety deposit box they just rented.
Hamill quotes Ricigliano, a spunky little lady, liberally, and here’s how she told the tale:
“In the second week of February, I went to Sovereign Bank at 4823 13th Ave. here in Borough Park with my boyfriend, Joe Valinoti,” says Ricigliano. “I’ve lived in the same house in Borough Park since I’m 13, and I’ve been banking at this location for 40 years. They keep changing the name of the bank. But I never had any problems.”
… “The box was in Joe’s name, but we both got keys to Box 770,” says the widow, who raised four kids in the neighborhood. “We didn’t bring our valuables with us that first day.”
Two weeks later, on March 1, the pair returned with their valuables and were escorted down to the vault by branch manager Paul Vigliotti, who used his key as Ricigliano simultaneously turned her key in the cover of Box 770. Vigliotti removed the 3-foot-long safe deposit box from the shelf.
“Paul showed us into a private transaction room,” she says. “No camera. He handed me the safe deposit box that felt bottom heavy.”
“Lopsided,” says laconic Joe Valinoti.
“So inside the private room, I stuck my hand inside the box and I felt all this paper,” she says. “I pulled out a roll of paper. It was fat, round, all $100 bills bound with rubber bands.”
“Then a whole bunch of rolls of cash tumbled down to this end of the box,” says Valinoti. “My eyes bulged. My heart raced.”
“I thought I was gonna have a stroke,” says Ricigliano. “I never in my life saw that much money. Had to be $100,000.”
Kathleen Ricigliano did the honest thing.
“I got the manager, Paul Vigliotti, and told him this wasn’t my money,” she says. “Paul asked if I was sure it wasn’t mine. I said I get my Social Security direct deposited at Sovereign. I know what’s mine and what’s not. He thanked me over and over, praising my honesty. Then he took the safe deposit box into another room. Alone.”
“He went in alone with our box of cash,” says Joe Valinoti.
Ricigliano said that, after that, Vigliotti became rude to her, dodging questions about the money and refusing to provide a receipt.
But then Ricigliano learned about New York State’s Finder’s Keepers Law, which awards the finder of lost property if the owner can’t be found. So Ricigliano returned to the bank and demanded to speak to Vigliotti.
“He wouldn’t tell me anything,” she says. “He was very abrupt with me. He says to me, ‘You sound like you want a reward or something.’ I says, ‘Matter fact, I do.’ ”
As it turns out, Finder’s Keepers doesn’t apply to banks and especially not safe deposits. For those, the bank holds it for 15 years, and then it’s handed over to the state.
Of course, Ricigliano isn’t so concerned about her reward. She’s just an honest woman, being honest. Her boyfriend, however, is a little more pragmatic.
“I don’t have regrets about being honest,” says Kathleen Ricigliano.
“I do,” says Joe Valinoti.