Temptation got the best of Doris La-Hediny, police say.
The 62-year-old Bushnell woman was in jail Tuesday, accused of keeping an envelope with $1,800 in cash that a harried customer had absent-mindedly left at a Wal-Mart checkout line on Mother's Day.
The money belonged to David Aspinwall who said he had borrowed it from his mother to pay two months' overdue rent, a delinquent electric bill and groceries for his girlfriend and sons, Evan, 2, and Charles, 9months.
"If it's five bucks, OK, I understand — it's something small," said Aspinwall, who makes $8 an hour at Burger King. "But it's $1,800! If she was behind me in line, she saw I have kids."
Belatedly noticing the envelope on the counter, the cashier said she mistakenly handed it to La-Hediny and asked, "Ma'am, is this yours?"
A store security video shows La-Hediny opening the white envelope, peeking inside, then quickly stuffing it into her purse and leaving.
Police identified her after reviewing the video and tracing a public-assistance debit card that she had tried to use to buy about $20 worth of groceries, including doughnuts, a pie and roach spray. She was arrested on a grand-theft charge.
La-Hediny has said the envelope was empty. The money is missing.
Mason Cash, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Central Florida, where he also teaches ethics, said people often rationalize or justify their bad behavior.
"Some people may decide that it's right for them to keep something valuable they found by reasoning mistakenly that 'Here's the universe smiling on me' or they may take the position that 'This is the kind of good luck I've been praying for,'" Cash said. "Others might focus on [doing] what is right or how they might feel if they had lost it rather than found it. They might want to make sure it got back to the person who lost it."
Considering all the consequences is important, he said.
"It depends on what kind of person you want to be," he said. "But if you do the calculations well, it usually doesn't work out to your benefit to be dishonest."
But what of the old adage "finders keepers, losers weepers"?
"That [saying] was made up by the finder," Cash said, "not the loser."