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From left, Lara Russo, Cally Guasti and Reese Werkhoven sit on a couch in their apartment in New Paltz, N.Y. on Thursday, May 15, 2014. The roommates had purchased it at a Salvation Army store and found $40,800 stashed inside. After finding a deposit slip, they returned the money to the 91-year-old upstate New York widow who had hidden it there. / AP/ Mike Groll

The old $20 couch from the Salvation Army was "pretty ugly" and smelled, but it fit the apartment three New York college roommates were sharing.

In April, a month after their funky, lumpy purchase, the new owners discovered its big redeeming quality: nearly $41,000 stashed inside.

"I almost peed," Reese Werkhoven toldThe Little Rebellion, the student newspaper at State University of New York-New Paltz , which first reported their find Monday.

"We put it all on a bed," Cally Guasti recalled to the Associated Press on Thursday. "We laid it all out and started counting. And we were screaming. In the morning, our neighbors were like, 'We thought you won the lottery.'"

Only one other person was happier about their second-hand windfall: the 91-year-old widow they returned the money to. Her family had unwittingly given away her three decades of hidden savings when she became ill.

Before locating the woman, the students wrestled with the ethical dilemma of what to do with their good-but-unearned fortune.

"We had a lot of moral discussions about the money," roommate Laura Russo told the Rebellion. "We all agreed that we had to bring the money back to whoever it belonged to‚?¶ it's their money - we didn't earn it. However, there were a lot of gray areas we had to consider."

Days later, Guasti found the unidentified woman's name on a deposit slip in one of several envelopes. Werkhoven called the next day.

"She said, 'I have a lot of money in that couch and I really need it,'" Guasti told AP.

The trio then drove to the woman's Hudson Valley home, which they described as "rustic" and in a "rough neighborhood." There were "beware of dog" signs and security cameras; the front door creaked when she opened it, Werkhoven told the student newspaper.

The woman cried when they returned the money.

As a reward for their good deed, the three young Samaritans received $1,000.

"At the end of the day, it wasn't ours," Guasti told AP. "I think if any of us had used it, it would have felt really wrong."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Roommates return $41K they find in old couch

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