Staten Island Treasures

Matthew and Maria Colonna Emanuel did not expect to find a safe full of money and jewelry next to their house. A deer had damaged their hedge and all they wanted was to fix the appearance of their front yard. However, the contractor hired to deal with the problem discovered a metal box beneath where the trees used to be. What they always thought was an old cable box appeared to be a safe that was stolen and presumably hidden for later pick up by the burglars who robbed the family’s neighbors back in 2011.

The couple had been living in their Todt Hill house for four years prior to the surprising find.

The company that the Emanuels hired, Touch the Earth Inc. is a New Jersey-based contractor. They were supposed to replace the arborvitae trees on the east side of the backyard with bamboo, which is known for its deer-resistant qualities. They started work two weeks ago but had to stop when they hit a metal box. Despite the owners’ insistence that it was merely a cable box, it was soon discovered that the object in question was, in fact, a safe.

The contractors and the owners joined forces and opened the safe with a pickaxe. What they found inside was a series of ziplock bags that contained a trove of jewelry and “hundred dollar bills that were in really bad, muddy, ugly shape,” according to Mr. Emanuel. Perhaps, the money disintegrated due to being stored improperly.

“It was the most fragile dollars you could ever imagine, and almost all of them were hundreds,” said Mr. Emanuel to State Island Live. He and his wife were able to salvage $16,300 worth of money, the rest was beyond repair. They also found a Brooklyn address written on pieces of paper inside some of the ziplock bags, which they decided must have been the home of the owners of the safe and jewelry and were able to trace it to a couple of neighbors that they vaguely knew.

“We realized it must have been them, so Monday morning I walked on over to their house and knocked on their door,” Mr. Emanuel said. “I asked them if they’d ever been robbed.”

The burglary that took place in 2011 was attributed to the notorious “Ninja Burglar” Robert Costanzo, who was convicted of his crimes in May 2017. At the time the home of the Emanuels’ neighbors was investigated as one targeted by someone with his exact burglary pattern.

Mr. Emanuel invited the robbed couple, who decided not to speak with the press or reveal their names, to see the safe. The wife accepted the invitation, and she was relieved to finally be reunited with her possessions. “She was like shaking and hugging me,” Mr. Emanuel said of the woman’s lucky day.

The Emanuels have now placed a ceramic elephant figurine on the spot where the safe had been found to commemorate the unexpected event in their life.

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