May 20, 2011— -- Josh Ferrin, an artist for the Deseret News, stumbled across some treasure in his new house -- a trove of $45,000 in cash and coins tucked away where no one could see it.
With thoughts of car and house payments in his head, he still decided to return all of the money to the previous owners of the house. Would you have done the same?
"I've got two boys and we teach them to be honest and to do what is right and I knew this was a teachable moment that I would never get back again," Ferrin, of Bountiful, Utah, told ABC News. "So I thought we would have fun with it. We would do something courageously honest with it. Something awesome. It's been a great thing for us and our kids."
See a slideshow of the money Ferrin found in his attic.
Just hours after he had closed on the house, Ferrin was checking out his new "man-cave" at the back of his garage, where he was planning to lay out his tools and hang things up. He looked up and noticed a little access panel in the ceiling with some carpeting jutting out.
"I thought, maybe this could be a little hidey-hole that had been finished and my kids could go up there and play," said Ferrin. He grabbed a ladder to climb up and investigate. It was dark, but he was able to make out an old and dusty ammo box.
"I grabbed the thing, it was heavy. I thought it might be holding down some pieces of wood or something," he said. It wasn't. It was filled with rolls and rolls of dollar bills.
"I opened it up, freaked out, closed it, locked it in the trunk of my car and called my wife to say, 'You are not going to believe what I just found in our attic."
At the time, Ferrin thought he had stumbled on a stash of $800 to $1,000. He climbed back up and found seven more money-filled boxes.
"It took me and my wife and my father three hours to unroll all the money and sort it by denomination," said Ferrin. It was a lot more than $800. They stopped counting when they hit $40,000.
"I'm human and immediately I thought of all the things we really needed the money for, but I believe in doing what is right and you can't dwell on those sorts of things when it's not your money," Ferrin said.
There was some dissent within the family on that, but Ferrin said he would not "name names." Many people told him, "What were you thinking?! It was your house! It's your property!"
But he and his wife knew they had to return the money to its rightful owners.
"This is the first step in a journey for us. There was no way I could start this new chapter in our lives in this house by doing something so wrong," Ferrin said.
Ferrin found out that the former owner of the house, Arnold Bangerter, had been the father of a family of six and lived in the house until he passed away last November. He had worked for the Department of Fish and Game and had been saving the money up for at least a decade, wrapping rolls of bills up with orange fishing twine.
"I'm an artist and an author, so I know what it's like to work on something for a long time and to want to see it come to fruition," Ferrin explained. "I felt like I got to peek into this guy's life and to write a chapter in his life that he didn't get to see completed in his own time. I get to be a part of this man's life, and that's cool."
Ferrin contacted Bangerter's children, and returned the money. He has not yet heard back from them, but assumes that is because they are still counting the money.
"Even though I didn't keep the money, I feel so lucky that I was the guy that found a treasure. I'm the guy that was walking down the beach that found a treasure chest filled with gold, that's me! This is a story that I will tell forever."
Josh Ferrin, a lucky man indeed.