Mystery woman leaves $12,000 at restaurant; waitress says it's a tip, police say drug money

A waitress at the Moorhead Fryn' Pan was working when she noticed a woman had left a to-go box from another restaurant on a table.

She grabbed the box, then followed the woman out the restaurant. But when she tried to reunite the woman with her "leftovers," the waitress was told, "No, I'm good, you keep it."

Befuddled, the waitress reentered the restaurant and noticed the box was heavier than your usual leftover container. She opened it up, looked inside, and there was the answer to her prayers -- $12,000 in cold hard cash.

The waitress -- who the Fargo-Moorhead Inforum isn't naming, in case the windfall turns out to be part of a drug deal gone wrong -- has five children and says she and her husband "desperately needed the money." Nonetheless, she called the Moorhead Police to report what she'd found.

Police first told her the money would be hers if nobody stepped up to claim it. She waited 90 days, then checked back -- only to be told the money is being held by police as part of a drug investigation. Instead of $12,000, she ended up with a $1,000 reward.

The waitress is now suing for the full $12,000 in Clay County District Court. She claims that the cash was given to her as a gift.

As her attorney explained to the Inforum, the poverty-stricken plight of the waitress and her husband is well known at their church. The attorney says it's "far more likely" the mystery woman was relaying an anonymous donation to the waitress's family than it is that the dough was part of a drug deal.

Police, on the other hand, argue that the money had a strong marijuana odor, triggering a state statute that allows loose cash to be confiscated if it's in proximity to controlled substances.

But the waitress's attorney believes police are overstepping. "It smells of unfairness is what it smells of," he said.

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