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Student of Economics Bags a Cache

March 29, 1985|JACK JONES | Times Staff Writer and

When 21-year-old UCLA economics student Alex Berliner spotted a small canvas courier bag on the sidewalk outside the American Savings & Loan Assn. office at 115 N. Fairfax Ave. early Thursday evening, he picked it up and swallowed hard.

The tag read $295,836.34.

"Have I got sharp eyes, or what?" young Berliner asked his father, free-lance fashion photographer Alan Berliner, as they walked their German shepherd dog, Quax.

But the Berliners were pretty sure the little bag with its lead seal did not contain real money. For one thing, it was too light. For another, the tag indicated that it was headed for the Bank of America clearing house in downtown Los Angeles.

Presumably, the bag contained a packet of canceled checks.

Alex Berliner took it home and--because it was after business hours--called the Bank of America's 800 number listed for the reporting of credit card thefts. He got a Mr. Garvey, who "was thrilled we had called," young Berliner related.

In hardly any time at all, Berliner heard from Armored Transport of California, which said somebody would be right out to pick up the bag.

Shortly thereafter, Steve Pitman, an Armored Transport supervisor, arrived at the Berliners' Laurel Avenue home to retrieve the bag, which he said had apparently been dropped by an employee of United Couriers, an Armored Transport subsidiary.

The company did not know it was missing, he said. And although it contained only canceled checks, "it's still money, regardless. It would have cost us a lot."

He told Alex Berliner: "Somebody will be contacting you. If they don't, let me know."

"I never let these things go by," Berliner said.

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