The 19-year-old Nuñez just needed to deposit money into his bank account to make the purchase online. When he tried, he made an astounding discovery – and what he did next has earned him praise and some fame in New Mexico's most populous city.
Nuñez drove to an ATM outside a Wells Fargo bank branch Sunday morning, just two minutes from the Albuquerque home to make a deposit.
As he pulled the truck along the machine, he saw a clear plastic bag on the ground. It was a "foot-long stack" of $ 50 and $ 20 bills, he said.
"I didn't know what to do. I dreamed," Nuñez told CNN. "I was just in shock. I looked at myself and just thought, & # 39; What should I do? & # 39;"
Nuñez said he never considered keeping money – but all kinds of wild thoughts ran through his head. Was this a kind of trick? Did anyone pull behind him and kidnap him?
Nuñez called Albuquerque police. Two officers arrived, and the teenager handed over the money.
The officers count the money back at their station: It was $ 135,000.
Albuquerque police understand that the money was incorrectly left outside the ATM by a bank subcontractor who was supposed to provide the machine with cash, Officer Simon Drobik said.
"This money could have made a huge difference in his life if he went the other way, but he chose the … integrity path and did the right thing," said Drobik, a spokesman for Albuquerque police.
When Wells Fargo spokesman Tony Timmons was asked to comment on Nuñez's actions on Thursday, he said he would defer to the ATM service provider.
CNN has left a message with the provider seeking comment.
The student says he could hear his parents' lessons in his head
Nuñez, a college student who lives at home and helps his parents take care of their two younger siblings, said the family comes from "humble beginnings," and that no one in his family has ever been around or seen that kind of money.
Nuñez said that as he stared at the cash and waited for police officers to arrive, he could hear the lessons of the parents in his head.
"My parents always taught me to work for my own. Stolen money would never last you," Nuñez recalled that his mother and father taught him.
And for Nuñez, who comes from a close-knit Latino family, there was a notorious guiding force that hovered over him to be well-behaved.
"I had my mom's voice and her" chancla "in the back of my head," Nuñez said. "La chancla" is a reference to an often real, often humorous threat of a flip-flop spanking to keep kids on the right track.
Businesses have fated Jose with some gifts
Nuñez's integrity has not been recognized.
City officials caught him Thursday in a ceremony outside Albuquerque's police academy.
The chief of police handed him a plaque, and has invited Nuñez – a Central New Mexico Community College student who intends to study criminal justice – to apply for a job as a public service officer at the police department, Drobik said.
Albuquerque ESPN Radio 101.7 FM presented him with some signed sports memorabilia the station had – including a football autographed by former NFL and University of New Mexico linebacker Brian Urlacher.
The radio station threw in six season passes for UNM football, said station president Joe O. Neill, who had heard about the Nuñez story from a police officer.
And at least three local businesses presented Nuñez with $ 500 each, with one of them – a restaurant – adding a $ 100 gift card, O & # 39; Neill said.
"It's the coolest story. … It's amazing what the kid did," said O & # 39; Neill.
His mother is proud
Nuñez's parents immigrated from Mexico in the late 1990s. They once worked on farm fields and picked onions. His father also spent years as a dishwasher, chef and under construction. Now the family runs a small mattress sale.
Nuñez had just finished his first collegiate year. His childhood dream is to work as an investigator of a criminal scene.
Nuñez said he called his mother immediately after contacting police Sunday. Albuquerque police officers went to the family home and made him famous to their parents.
"She told me I was doing the right thing and that she was proud of me," Nuñez said. "She called me and almost started crying."