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Lawyer 'so grateful' to LIRR for wallet's return

You think your commute is expensive? A recent trip on the Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station to Huntington almost cost David Sperling $2,830.

That was the amount in cash that the Huntington immigration attorney had in the wallet he left when he got off his train Tuesday afternoon. But thanks to an honest LIRR conductor, Sperling got back his wallet, and every penny in it, within hours.

"I'm so grateful for the Long Island Rail Road and for everything they've done to get this wallet back to me," Sperling, 57, said Thursday at a news conference at the LIRR's lost-and-found office in Penn Station. There, he met LIRR conductor Larry Pinkham Jr., who had recovered the wallet and returned it to him.

Sperling said he was returning to his office after working in Manhattan. Most of the money in his wallet was from a client. Sperling said he did not notice his wallet had fallen out of his coat until he returned to his office.

"I just went crazy. I panicked," said Sperling, who also had credit cards and his attorney identification card in the wallet.

Luckily for Sperling, Pinkham, who has worked for the railroad for 10 years, spotted the billfold during his routine check of the train after its last stop in Huntington about 4 p.m.

"I opened it up to look for identification. I noticed right away that there was a lot of money in it," said Pinkham, 34, who immediately contacted the LIRR's lost-and-found staff to tell them.

Only minutes after noticing the wallet was missing, Sperling, a former copy editor at Newsday, received a call from an LIRR official, who told him the wallet had been found. LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone and Anthony Simon, general chairman of the United Transportation Union, which represents the LIRR's 1,200 conductors, commended Pinkham yesterdayThursday for a job well done. The LIRR recovered 15,410 lost items in 2009 - 7,242 of which were returned to their owners. Calderone said the LIRR would "like to do better," and encouraged riders who lose items on trains or at stations to visit the LIRR's lost-and-found page at its official Web site, mta.info/lirr, to file a report.

The LIRR keeps lost items for varying time periods, depending on their value, with items worth less than $100 kept for three months.

If items aren't claimed, the LIRR sells them to a company that resells them, LIRR lost-and-found manager Casey Arasa said.

Unclaimed money goes into the LIRR's coffers. Last year, the LIRR recovered about $24,000 in lost cash.

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