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Christmas Comes Early to Owner of Lost Cash

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Harish Khetarpal was shocked to receive a Christmas present that already belonged to him.

But he was not disappointed.

He was very, very happy.

Through the help of an anonymous benefactor, Khetarpal, 30, recovered a briefcase containing $5,140 in cash that he had left sitting on the curb outside his Saugus home.

“It was the biggest relief of my life,” Khetarpal said Friday. “It’s an overwhelming feeling. It’s an unbelievable situation.”

Khetarpal misplaced the briefcase, which contained documents and proceeds from the recent sale of a car, about 1 p.m. Wednesday when he parked briefly outside his home in the 28100 block of Rodgers Drive before hurrying off to pick up his wife and two small children who were arriving on a flight from India.

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“I was installing the car seat and I must have put it down,” said Khetarpal, who owns a medical supply firm in Valencia. “I was in a hurry--one of my children was sick. . . . I must have left it right on the curb.”

A woman found the briefcase less than half an hour later and discovered the owner’s identity and address on documents inside. She tried to return it in person, but Khetarpal was not home.

“She knocked, but there was no answer, so she left a note on the front door saying that she would drop it off with us,” said Sgt. Steve Jenkins of the Santa Clarita sheriff’s station.

Khetarpal noticed the briefcase was missing while driving to the airport. When he returned home, the family entered through the garage and didn’t notice the note on the front door. He searched the house frantically for several hours before giving up in despair.

“I had a terrible headache,” he said. “I thought maybe someone stole it from my car while I was inside.”

He noticed the note when a pizza deliveryman came to his front door later that night. On Thursday morning, the Khetarpals collected the briefcase at the sheriff’s station and offered to give a reward.

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But authorities said the woman didn’t want a reward and had insisted that neither Khetarpal nor anyone else be told her name.

Instead, Khetarpal will donate $501--a sum he said “came to me” as a reward amount while the money was still missing--to a charity next week. But the Khetarpals still want to thank the woman.

“It was the best Christmas present that someone could ever get,” said his wife, Roma Khetarpal, 27. “You forget there are such nice people in the world.”

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