by Paul Bowers
In a state where a two-bit computer hacker stole millions of taxpayers' Social Security numbers from a government database with an e-mail scam, it's comforting to know that some people are still following the Golden Rule and doing right by their neighbors — people like Victor and Danny Flota.
Brenda Griffin, a travel nurse from Alabama who is living in the Charleston area, contacted the City Paper recently to give the Flotas a public thank-you. "I just wanted to lift them up," Griffin said. "I just wanted people to know that there are some very honest people out there."
Griffin was running errands in Mt. Pleasant on New Year's Day when she stopped at the Sunoco gas station on Highway 17 near Hungryneck Boulevard. She accidentally left her wallet on the roof of her car and drove off, and when she realized it was missing, she panicked. Griffin was unemployed at the time, and she had just taken the last of her savings — about $350 in cash — out of the bank to pay her bills for the month. Even worse, the wallet contained her driver's license, her credit card, and both her and her son's Social Security cards.
Meanwhile, someone had found the wallet. Victor Flota, who runs the upholstery company S.C. Interior Customs with his brother Danny, says his brother pulled up to the Sunoco and saw the wallet spilled open. "When he was getting into parking lot, he saw all these papers flying around," Flota says, referring to the cash and the documents. Danny gathered everything together, and the two searched for Griffin's name online, with no luck. "We tried to find her, but I'm not good with computers," Victor Flota says. So they took the wallet to a Mt. Pleasant police officer, for whom the Flotas had done some upholstery work on his boat.
Griffin was amazed when her roommate called to say the police were looking for her so they could return the wallet. She still had an Alabama driver's license, and nothing in the wallet identified her as living in South Carolina. "Fortunately, I had a broken brake light that I'd gotten a warning ticket for, and I think that's how they finally found me," Griffin says.