NEW ORLEANS - Six years ago, a local waiter made national headlines all because he did the right thing. Al Castro returned a wallet with $8,000 dollars cash in it. His story doesn't necessarily have the happy ending you would hope for.
Castro worked at the Harrah's Casino buffet in 2007. He was the father of a one-year-old, a waiter and a business student at the University of Phoenix at the time. Ophthalmologist Tom McCauley was in town for one of the first big conventions after Hurricane Katrina.
One night, McCauley won $8,000 at Harrah’s craps table, then had dinner at the buffet. McCauley left his wallet in the booth after dinner.
Castro was his waiter and found it. “He filled out the comment card. I looked for it. I called all the hotels,” Castro recalled about what happened in 2007.
When McCauley went back to find the wallet, Castro handed it to him with all $8,000 dollars inside.
“My conscience would've gotten to me. It always does,” Castro said about why he decided to return the wallet and not keep any of the money.
“I consider that my lucky wallet and I still use it,” McCauley said.
McCauley came back to New Orleans last weekend, once again, for the American Academy of Ophthalmology convention. He gave Castro a proclamation from the governor of Rhode Island, McCauley's home state. “In recognition of his exceptional honesty and integrity as exemplified by his good deed and efforts,”
McCauley read from the copy of the official document he carried with him. Initially in 2007, Castro wouldn’t take any money from McCauley as a reward for finding the wallet. Eventually though, he took the $8,000 for his education. And the whole thing got so much attention the University of Phoenix, where he was an undergraduate college student, gave him his degree for free.
“I was on Good Morning America. Larry King had asked me to come on,” McCauley said about the frenzy of media calls he received after the whole thing happened.
Since his time at Harrah’s, Castro has struggled to find a job making use of that marketing degree. He was recently laid off, and is working at a rent-to-own store in Morgan City.
“I've still been trying to get back on my feet and I've just been going with the flow, trying to make things right,” Castro said.
His daughter is now seven and he recently separated from his wife. Despite all of the things he’s been through since his fifteen minutes of fame, Castro is still keeping tabs on McCauley's wallet.
Last weekend, he gave the ophthalmologist a new wallet with a chain that loops around his belt. “I don't think I'll be losing my wallet this time,” McCauley said, showing us his new wallet.
And McCauley's still trying to help Castro, this time, to find better job.
The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau helped make Castro's story a national one six years ago, because McCauley was in town for one of the first big conventions after Hurricane Katrina. Even though this is the first time in several years the two men have seen each other, they have become friends. They talk regularly on the phone.