For years, a couple from Staten Island thought a piece of rusty metal behind some trees in the backyard of their Todt Hill home was just part of a cable or electrical box, so they never paid much attention to it.
After a deer had destroyed some trees around the perimeter of their yard, Matthew and Maria Colonna-Emanuel had hired a landscaper to replace them. But when the landscaper pulled the rusted metal out of the ground, they learned it wasn’t just a box, but a safe.
After opening the hidden treasure with a pickax, the couple discovered $52,000 worth of smelly, soaking wet and stuck-together dollars just rotting away, along with gold, diamonds, and other gems.
“And there are all these bags with hundreds and jewelry, diamonds, engagement rings, dozens of rings, gold with jade,” Matthew said. “It was stunning.”
The Emanuels also found something else contained inside – a piece of paper with their neighbor’s address. So they headed over to them.
“First I knocked on the door, and I asked them if they were ever robbed and they said they were,” Matthew said.
According to a police report, the safe was taken from the neighbor’s home during a burglary in 2011, the day after Christmas.
It is still unknown why the thief decided to bury the safe in the Emanuels’ backyard. On the other hand, the couple has since returned the treasure to their neighbor who was very excited to get the cash and baubles back.
“The cops told her ‘You’ll never see your stuff again,'” said Maria.
Amazingly, she did after eight years, thanks to the Emanuels’ honesty. When asked why they didn’t keep the loot for themselves, Maria said, “it wasn’t even a question. It wasn’t ours.”
What the Emanuels did was the right thing, making their neighbors very grateful. Now, a ceramic elephant in tribute to their incredible find stands from where the safe once was.