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Riviera Beach man helps return $20K after customer loses cash

Three bags of money accidentally tossed in trash
Russell Mir (left) and James Stratford
Posted at 11:23 AM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 12:04:40-04

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — They say actions speak louder than words.

One Riviera Beach man, who will be remembered for his honesty, helped save a local business.

SPECIAL SECTION: Inspiring South Florida

It is a wash and wax job James Stratford will never forget.

“He asked me to clean the truck, so before he got to the truck I said, 'Hey, whatever you want, you take with you. Whatever is in here, goes in the trash. He said, 'OK, no problem,'” said Stratford, who owns My 5 Mobile Detailing.

A few hours after he was done cleaning Russell Mir's car, he got a phone call from Mir about money he lost.

“What kind of money you talking about? So, he said $20,000, and I jumped. I jumped straight to my feet,” said Stratford.

Mir owns several gas stations and convenience stores in the area. He was going to deposit the cash, but forgot three bags full of money under the passenger seat of his car before handing it over to Stratford for a wash.

“I almost had a heart attack to be honest. I could not pay my employees. I couldn’t keep the door open. I don’t know what I would do,” said Mir.

Mir looked in a dumpster where Stratford told him he threw away some of the trash bags. He found one bag, but the other two were still missing. After searching, Stratford found them in a garbage can nearby where he typically dumps trash.

“In the coronavirus, when nobody’s working, you know what that $20,000 could have did for me and my family?” said Stratford.

But this father of five says said after an early life full of bad choices, this decision was easy.

“You gotta plant the seeds how you want it to grow. All my life I’ve been in the streets, in and out of prison, so I’m tired of that,” said Stratford. “The new me says be honest and give it back, and that’s what I did.”

"Not a single bill was missing. I almost cried right away. I almost cried,” said Mir. "God is watching us, and as much as I like to see, I hope our community gets better. Honesty is very important nowadays.”

As a thank you, Stratford and his family now have one year of unlimited, soda, Slurpees or anything at Mir's gas stations.