Jennifer Vazquez

NYC Pizzeria Waiter Returns Lost $424K Check to Retired Social Worker

What to Know

  • A retired social worker almost lost a small fortune in the blink of an eye after leaving a cashier's check at a restaurant
  • Karen Vinacour, 79, accidently left her check worth nearly $424,000 at Patsy's in East Harlem
  • Thanks to the waiter and restaurant owner who tracked Vinacour down, she was reunited with her life savings five days after losing the check

A retired social worker almost lost a small fortune in the blink of an eye after leaving a nearly half-million dollar cashier's check at a restaurant.

But, all is well after a pizzeria waiter became her hero and returned the check worth nearly $424,000 to the retired social worker who lost it, the Daily News reports.

Armando Markaj found a bank envelope while cleaning off a table last Saturday at Patsy's restaurant in East Harlem.

Markaj ran outside but the customer was gone. He opened the envelope and got a shock.

After an unsuccessful search, the restaurant's owner called the Daily News publication for help.

“I’m happy for her, really. Saturdays are pretty busy, and I was very close to taking everything left on the table and throwing it out when I saw an envelope,” Markaj, 27, told The News. “I just pulled up the flap and I saw ‘Citibank’ and thought it was important, so I ran out to the street to look for her, but she was gone.”

Though Karen Vinacour, 79, realized her mistake and quickly called Patsy's, she called the wrong location, and since she never returned to claim the check the restaurant's owner tried to find her.

"I was stunned," Vinacour tells NBC 4 New York. "I mean, it was really emotional. I was crying."

Thanks to the efforts of owner Frank Brija, 63, his son and Markaj, the check's rightful owner was tracked down five days later, with help from the Daily News.

"I said, 'Can you just please try to google to try and find this lady?'" Brija told NBC 4 New York about the request he made to his son.

A "relieved" Vinacour was finally reunited with her check on Wednesday. It contained her life savings — proceeds from her apartment sale, earmarked for a down payment on a new home.

Vinacour was frantic after she learned from her bank that it would have taken three months to reissue a new check. 

Vinacour admits she had not tipped the waiter after her meal because she was not happy with his response when she asked why there weren't a lot of photos of women on the restaurant's famed wall. She tried to rectify that when she went to pick up her check, but he graciously declined her tip.

"What an amazing young man," she said. "He could have thrown it in the garbage. I mean, he had that option of throwing it in the garbage, because we were not very nice to him."

Markaj, who's working his way through school, did accept Vinacour's apology and gratitude and said he's "happy for her."

"I'm very grateful to that nice young man," she said.

Vinacour adds she plans on visiting the pizzeria soon and ordering "a lot" and leaving the waiter "a big tip."

Brija says next time Vinacour stops by the restaurant she'll see one more photo of a woman up on the restaurant's wall: hers.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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