One man's holidays were made a bit merrier this week.

After all, not everyone who loses $420 has it returned.

Chris Delahunty, a graduate student studying civil engineering at the University of Utah, lost four $100 bills and one $20 bill Monday — money with which he was to pay his mortgage.

Delahunty has a wife and three kids. With Christmas coming up, finding another $420 — in the midst of holiday expenditures — would not be easy.

Monday about 5 p.m., Delahunty walked to his truck in the parking lot near the engineering building toting two backpacks. He thinks the money was in his front pocket.

"I went to pull my keys out, and I'm sure it fell out of my pocket," Delahunty said.

But he didn't notice it at the time. He drove to Magna and stopped at a grocery store to purchase an item.

"I went for the cash, and lo and behold, it was gone."

Delahunty drove back into the city, stopping everywhere he remembered being that day — the health department, where he received a tetanus shot; a gas station, where he refilled a drink; and finally the U.

"I went straight to the engineering building and started scouring the building," Delahunty said. "And I couldn't see it anywhere. I thought it was gone for good."

As he walked back to the parking lot, he spotted a note where his truck had been parked earlier that day that said something to the effect: "If you lost something valuable in cash, call campus police."

That note was written by Ambar Nayate, an undergraduate studying electrical engineering.

After class, Nayate noticed some money "all folded up and it was right next to my car."

He picked it up and counted it. He said he was shocked at how much there was.

"The way I figured it, if someone was carrying $420 in cash, it's pretty important," such as rent money, Nayate said.

Nayate said the thought never occurred to him to pocket the cash, pay his own rent, buy Christmas presents, or use it for next semester's tuition.

"It was someone else's money," Nayate said. "It didn't belong to me on any level."

So, Nayate called campus police and told them he had some money and was wondering if anyone had reported money lost. He called every day.

"I didn't give campus police my full name or anything like that. I wanted to make sure it got through the right person."

Finally, police connected Nayate with Delahunty. They met outside a computer lab on campus Thursday morning.

Delahunty "was totally cool," Nayate said. "He gave me $20. I said, 'Hey, you don't have to give me anything.' "

Delahunty said he's indebted to Nayate and grateful for his honesty.

University Police public information officer Kevin Nollenberg said it's not too uncommon for people to turn in money they find around campus.

"Most of the time, people don't report their money missing," he said. "They don't think anybody is going to turn it in."


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com