Ozone Park men honored for returning woman’s life savings

Photo courtesy of the Office Of Borough President Helen Marshall

A stash of cash in a junkyard earned two Ozone Park men honors from the borough president.

Michael Downer and Fred Alsterberg were honored by Borough President Helen Marshall for finding and returning a woman’s life savings that were accidentally trashed.

Magda Castillo stashed roughly $5,000 in a nonfunctioning refrigerator that she stored in her home. Downer, manager at Atlantic Recycling, an Ozone Park scrapyard, said two weeks ago Castillo’s boyfriend and sister brought in the old appliance for cash.

The next morning, Castillo showed up to explain the mix-up. Alsterberg, an employee at the yard, helped her look for the refrigerator, but it had already been scrapped and crushed.

“She did the sign of the cross, and she left,” Downer said.

The next day, Downer found the old fridge crushed in between two cars, and the cash lying nearby.

Without a way to reach Castillo, he and Alsterberg contacted local media and put out a notice, hoping she would see they had recovered her money.

“A couple days later she came by,” Downer said, and was given back her savings.

“I commend [Downer] and [Alsterberg] for their honesty and for their determination in making sure this lost cash was returned to the right person,” Marshall said. “They understood how important it was to return the money and were willing to make the extra effort to find it and locate the woman who lost it. They deserve our praise and admiration.”

In their two years at Atlantic Recycling, Downer and Alsterberg have found wallets, prescriptions, bills and more left behind in the “junk” people bring by, but never anything of this caliber.

Marshall awarded the two men a Citations of Honor at Borough Hall on Wednesday, July 31. Downer, however, maintains his modesty.

“It shouldn’t be an amazing feat for someone to give back something that’s not theirs,” he said.

“Everybody should do that.”




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