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Garden sprouts $150K surprise

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(Hollyn Johnson – hjohnson@shawmedia.com)
Wayne Sabaj found $150,000 on Monday in his garden, and the McHenry County Sheriff's Office left behind a card to communicate with whoever left it there.

JOHNSBURG – Wayne Sabaj said he had a roast on the grill that took all day to cook when he decided he wanted some broccoli to go with dinner.

He went to his backyard vegetable garden to pick some and saw a bag in his peppers.

Inside that bag was another bag. And inside that bag were stacks of cash, all $20 bills.

“I walked in, showed my dad and said, ‘Now we’re in trouble,’ ” Sabaj said.

After he found the bag about 3:30 p.m. Monday at his home on Oakleaf Ave. in an unincorporated area near Johnsburg, Sabaj called police. They found a second bag with more money.

An unemployed carpenter who moved in with his father, there’s no doubt that Sabaj could have used the cash.

“I went and spent my last $10 on cigarettes yesterday, but I turned in $150,000,” he said.

But he also didn’t know what kind of people would be back to collect it.

“What if it’s from a bank robbery?” he said.

There currently are no suspects, but there is concern that the money may be the result of a residential or commercial burglary that has not yet been reported to police, McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said.

The bags are being processed for fingerprints and other evidence, and there was distinguishing packaging that an owner could identify.

Saturday night, Sabaj’s son had a bonfire until about 4 a.m., so whoever left the bag had to have done it sometime after then, Sabaj said.

Many of the yards in the neighborhood are fenced in, but his is not, so he said kids frequently cut through.

But it didn’t make much sense where the bags were left, Sabaj said. Had they been left by the Brussels sprouts or other areas with more weeds, they wouldn’t have been visible.

In the bags’ place Tuesday afternoon was a business card left by investigators with a phone number and “please call” written on it.

If the owner is not identified, sheriff’s police will assist Sabaj in determining whether he can claim the money, Zinke said. Sabaj did contact an attorney, he said.

Anyone with information about the money is encouraged to call the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office at 815-338-2144 or their local police department.

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