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Scrap dealers saluted for finding lost cash

Photo by Lisa Autz
By Lisa Autz

One Queens woman would have lost her life savings if it were not for the good will of two strangers.

Michael Downer and Fred Alsterberg were honored by Borough President Helen Marshall Wednesday for recovering and returning about $5,000 in cash to Magda Castillo, the Kew Gardens resident who stashed it an old fridge that was taken away.

Two weeks ago, Magda Castillo’s sister dumped her old refrigerator with the forgotten cash at Atlantic Recycling in South Ozone Park. Castillo returned to the scrap yard the next morning in a panic and approached the employee, Alsterberg.

Alsterberg, a tow truck driver for Atlantic Recycling, hunted for the refrigerator among the heaps of scrap metal but found nothing.

“She blessed herself with the sign of the cross and went on her way,” said Alsterberg, describing Castillo after she assumed her money was gone for good.

Alsterberg then approached Michael Downer, the manager, with the issue at hand. Downer vaguely recalled where the fridge had been dumped and eventually found it amid a pile of car metal. Together they pried open the smashed metal to find plastic bags filled with cash inside.

At that point Castillo had left without giving any contact information, so both men notified the media that they had found her money. Soon after Castillo arrived at the scrap yard and awarded Downer $300 for finding the cash.

“It was the right thing to do,” said Downer. “It was money for her mortgage.”

At Queens Borough Hall, the two men were given citations of honor by Marshall in recognition of their diligence and honesty.

“Its not every day that someone at a job finds 5,000 in cash and returns it,” Marshall said. “These men are heros.”

Both humbly accepted their awards and hoped to inspire more good Samaritans.

“It feels very nice to get this award,” said Alsterberg. “There are a lot of thieves in this world.”

While posing for photos, Marshall pointed to the two flags on either side of them.

“This is the flag of our country and this is the flag of our borough and these men have honored both of them,” said Marshall.

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