For a long time, Matthew and Maria Emanuel thought it was just a cable box partially buried in their back yard.
As CBS New York reports, the metal box was hidden in a line of trees on the Emanuel's property. After four years in their Staten Island home, Matthew and Maria never thought there was anything special about it. In fact, Matthew said that it wasn't until the deer ate the leaves and growth around it that the box became noticeable.
But when they hired a landscaper to replace the trees, the contractor dug up the metal box. That's when the Emanuels discovered there was a hidden treasure buried on their property. Matthew told CBS:
“You dream as a kid that you find a buried treasure and ... it happened.”
The box turned out to be a small safe and inside was a true treasure horde. The Emanuels found stacks of damp hundred dollar bills slowly decomposing. And that wasn't all. Matthew told CBS:
“[T]here are all these bags with hundreds and jewelry, diamonds, engagement rings, dozens of rings, gold with jade. It was stunning.”
As they went through the stacks of wet, decaying money, they also found a clue to the safe's original owner — the address of a neighbor.
Matthew's first move was to knock on the neighbor's door and asked if they had ever been robbed. When the neighbors said they had, Matthew followed up with local police to confirm the story.
He discovered that in 2011, the neighbor had reported a burglary. Stolen from their home was a safe which contained approximately $52,000 in property. Maria told CBS that the cops warned the victims “you'll never see your stuff again.”
The Emanuels returned the safe to their grateful neighbor and erected a ceramic elephant to mark the place where they found their buried treasure. Asked if they had received a reward for returning the thousands in cash and jewels, Matthew said that they hadn't, but their reward was “good karma.”
While they might have been able to get away with not returning the treasure, Maria told CBS there was never any doubt about doing the right thing:
“A couple of people asked us, 'Why did you return it?' It wasn’t even a question. It wasn’t ours.”