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Boy, 6, Finds Wallet With $250, Returns It to Owner

October 16, 1998

The lesson was worth far more than the $250 that Jamie Fox was sure she'd never see again.

Fox said that over the years she had grown suspicious, thinking "everyone in Los Angeles was a criminal."

That was until she met Leslie Lazar, a 6-year-old first-grader who immigrated to the United States from Hungary with his mother last year.

Fox had just withdrawn $200 from an automated teller machine Sunday at the Fallbrook Mall in West Hills when she reached for her wallet in a store and realized it was missing.

Although she reported the loss to mall security, she said she assumed that the money, which she planned to use to pay a veterinary bill for her sick cat, was gone.

"I just went home and cried," she said.

Meanwhile, Leslie and his mother were busy in their Reseda Boulevard apartment trying to find the owner of the cash-filled wallet that Leslie had found on the ground during an excursion to the mall.

"Mommy, look at what I found," Helen Valentini quoted her son as saying. "We have to give it back."

A single mother, Valentini conceded that it occurred to her that $250 would have greatly eased a tight monthly budget, "but we are not that way," she said.

A couple of hours later, after finding Fox's telephone number from an insurance card in her wallet, Valentini called Fox and told her about her son's discovery.

Fox gave Valentini and her son a $100 reward for their honesty.

More important, Fox said, the incident changed her.

"I'm just not going to be so quick to assume that people who are less fortunate than me are thieves," she said.

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