Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013 | 12:44 p.m.
Talk about a Christmas miracle.
A Las Vegas cab driver who found $300,000 — $100 bills in six $50,000 bundles — in a brown paper bag in the back seat of his taxi returned the money to the owner, a gambler who had won big at the Cosmopolitan.
Yellow Checker Star named cabbie Gerardo Gamboa its Driver of the Year, rewarding him with $1,000 and a dinner for two at an exclusive restaurant. Gamboa may still get a reward from the unidentified gambler.
Gamboa picked up the player Monday morning at the Cosmopolitan and took him to Palms Place, where the passenger gave him a $5 tip.
Gamboa’s next stop was the Bellagio, where a doorman removed the bag from the back seat of the car and put it on the front passenger seat, surmising it was chocolate left behind by a previous rider.
When Gamboa stopped at a traffic light after picking up his next passenger, he peeked inside the bag and discovered the money.
“I told my passenger, ‘You are my witness on this,’ and then I immediately called my dispatcher,” Gamboa said.
Once the cash was secured at the taxi company office, it was tracked to the owner through Cosmopolitan records. The man arrived at the office in sweats and a T-shirt to reclaim his money, but he didn’t have any identification.
YCS officials took another few hours conferring with the Cosmopolitan and Metro Police to make sure they were handing the money over to the right person.
“He was really polite about it and waited patiently,” said Bill Shranko, a YCS manager. “He said he’d do whatever was necessary.”
Once his identity was verified, YCS turned the cash over to the player, who asked to see Gamboa to shake his hand. He told Gamboa he planned to reward him and got his contact information.
“If he doesn’t give me anything, that’s OK,” Gamboa said. “I’m not waiting for any kind of return. I just wanted to do the right thing, and I appreciate what the company did for me.”
Gamboa, a humble and religious man who has worked for YCS for 13 years, has now become a media star, fielding interview requests from Los Angeles, Chicago and New York about the unusual find.