Stacy Knutson, Moorhead waitress, gets to keep her $12,000 tip after all

Finders, keepers, in the case of Stacy Knutson and her magic box.

Finders, keepers, in the case of Stacy Knutson and her magic box.

Poverty-stricken waitress Stacy Knutson stumbled across $12,000 while working at the Fryn' Pan in Moorhead. She reported her fortuitous, unclaimed finding to police, only to have them keep the cash on the pretense that it was drug money. She later sued the county to recoup the funds, arguing police had no basis for the drug money claim.

Today, the 18-year restaurant veteran and mother of five received good news. The Clay County attorney's office decided to return the full $12,000 to Knutson and her family, meaning she and her kids should eat well for the foreseeable future. No reason for the decision was immediately given, but perhaps the Grinch-like move to seize the money created a PR shitstorm the county just didn't want to weather.

"She and her family were praying and asked God's intervention to touch these peoples' hearts," her attorney, Craig Richie, told the Star Tribune, "and that's what happened."

[jump] After Knutson turned the cash over to police, officials argued the bills 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 in the lawsuit, Knutson's attorney brought out the heavy hitters to make the case that police had no justification for seizing the dough.

Nickolas Fronning, a line cook at the Fryn' Pan, suggested that as a person who is quite familiar with the scent of marijuana himself, he would've recognized the presence of ganja in Knutson's magic box. "I know the smell of marijuana, [and] I can also assure you that there was no smell of marijuana on the bills or coming from the box," he said in the lawsuit.

Call it luck if you want. But to Knutson and Richie, the $12,000 find is an instance of divine intervention.

"It was about God providing for her," Richie said. If that's true, then He certainly does work in mysterious ways.

Previous coverage:

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