For years, one New York couple said they assumed it was nothing more than a cable box in their backyard.
But Matthew Emanuel told CBS New York that he and his wife Maria learned the true nature of the silver box after deers ate through the trees that covered it. The Emanuels hired a landscaping company to remove the greenery and replace it with bamboo, he said, and that's when they discovered that the "cable box" was actually a safe.
The landscapers pried open the safe with a pickaxe at the Staten Island home and uncovered a startling trove of items.
"I thought we found buried treasure," Matthew Emanuel told Staten Island Live.
They found about $16,000 of muddy and soggy cash, jewelry, diamonds and an engagement ring. It's worth about $53,000 all together, CBS reported. Bob Foley, whose company Touch the Earth, Inc, removed the trees, said he never expected to find a buried treasure worth tens of thousands of dollars.
"We were freaked out," he told Staten Island Live. "It's something you can't make up."
But that wasn't all — there was a note with an address, too, Matthew Emanuel told ABC7.
Using that address, Matthew Emanuel told Staten Island Live that he traced the safe back to neighbors, who confirmed that they had been the victims of a robbery in 2011 — and had their safe stolen.
Police confirmed that the safe had been stolen in December 2011, ABC7 reported.
Maria Colonna-Emanuel said she and her husband knew they had to return the items to their rightful owner.
That decision shocked some people, she told CBS.
“A couple of people asked us, ‘Why did you return it?’,” she said. “It wasn’t even a question. It wasn’t ours.”
Matthew Emanuel told Staten Island Live that after giving the safe back, one of the neighbors "was like shaking and hugging me."
And his reward?
"I guess the reward is karma," he told CBS. "Good karma."