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Moorhead police will return seized $12,000 to Fryn' Pan waitress

MOORHEAD - After the story prompted national headlines, authorities here said today that police will return to the waitress the $12,000 left behind in cash by a Fryn' Pan customer.

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Assistant Clay County Attorney Michelle Lawson said the money could not be tied to a criminal investigation, and the waitress will get a check for the $12,000 later today.

Stacy Knutson of Moorhead had contacted police after finding the bundled rolls of various denominations in a takeout container from a different restaurant at Fryn' Pan in Moorhead.

Police initially told her she could have the money if no one claimed it but later seized it, saying it was part of a drug investigation.

Knutson said she considered the $12,000 a tip when no one claimed it after 90 days.

"I do know that the person gave me what was in that to-go bag," Knutson wrote in the lawsuit. "Thus as I understand it, it is mine." She had followed the diner to her car and tried to return the box but the lady said, "No, I am good, you keep it," the lawsuit said.

When Knutson went back into the kitchen and opened the box, she found three wads of bills - $100s, $50s, $20s and $10s - wrapped in rubber bands, her attorney told the Associated Press.

Authorities said a police dog detected the odor of drugs on the bag of cash.

Knutson filed a lawsuit last month to get the money back from authorities.

The story attracted wide media attention. Published on Tuesday and in The Forum on Wednesday, it has since been picked up by ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, USA Today and the Washington Post, among other news outlets.