(CNN)Jose Nuñez Romaniz was on a mission to buy socks for his grandfather. He'd just helped him find the right ones online, after the elder man had no luck finding them in stores.
An Albuquerque man found $135K next to an ATM. Instead of walking away with it, he called police
The 19-year-old Nuñez just needed to deposit money into his bank account to make the online purchase. When he tried, he made an astonishing find -- and what he did next has earned him praise and a bit of 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 his Albuquerque home to make his deposit.
As he pulled his truck alongside the machine, he spotted 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 was, like, dreaming," Nuñez told CNN. "I was just in shock. I was looking at myself and just thinking, 'What should I do?'"
Nuñez said he never considered keeping the cash -- but all sorts of wild thoughts raced through his mind. Was this some kind of trick? Was someone going to pull up behind him and kidnap him?
With the bank closed on that Sunday, Nuñez called Albuquerque police. Two officers arrived, and the teenager handed over the money.
The officers counted the cash back at their station: It totaled $135,000.
Albuquerque police understand the money was mistakenly left outside the ATM by a bank subcontractor that was meant to supply the machine with cash, Officer Simon Drobik said.
"This money could have made an incredible amount of difference in his life if he went down the other path, but he chose ... the integrity path and did the right thing," Drobik, a spokesman for the Albuquerque police, said.
When asked for comment about Nuñez's actions Thursday, Wells Fargo spokesman Tony Timmons said he would defer to the vendor that services the ATMs.
CNN has left a message with that vendor, seeking comment.
Nuñez, a college student who lives at home and helps his parents take care of his two younger siblings, said his 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, waiting for police officers to arrive, he could hear the lessons of his parents in his head.
"My parents always taught me to work for my own. Stolen money would never last you any time," Nuñez recalled his mother and father teaching him.
And for Nuñez, who comes from a tight-knit Latino family, there was an infamous guiding force hovering 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 children on the right path.