CHICAGO -- Despite everything, Robert Adams considers himself to be an honest man.
Adams, 54, a hospital engineer from Arlington Heights, Ill., made the news last month for turning in a bag of money he said he found lying on the ground. He was praised as a paragon of integrity.
But this week, his story unraveled. After being confronted by FBI agents and Rolling Meadows, Ill., detectives, Adams admitted that he had found the cash inside a Walgreens store -- and that he had harbored thoughts of keeping it for himself.
Rolling Meadows police fined him $500 for filing a false police report. Chief David Scanlan said it took 40 hours of detective work to get to the truth.
"I would have rather had those detectives working on something where someone really needed help," he said Thursday. "We have plenty of those."
Adams said he was sorry for the work he made for investigators, and added that he wouldn't contest the fine. But he insisted that the temptation he faced -- and ultimately overcame -- would have tested almost anyone.
"I did have that thought in my mind (upon finding the money): 'Yes, I could do a lot with that,"' he said. "I considered that to be the human reaction to seeing a large sum of money in front of me."
Adams at first claimed he had found the bag, emblazoned with a Chase Bank logo and containing about $20,000, June 6 at a Rolling Meadows strip mall. But police quickly learned it had come from a Walgreens store in Midlothian, Ill. And when they retrieved the video from that store, there was Adams.
The video shows him setting a drink on the floor and using the store's Chase ATM. When he finishes, he picks up his drink and does a double take. He pauses for a moment, his eyes riveted to the floor. Then he takes a long look around, picks something up and slips out the door.
Scanlan said a separate video shows Adams carrying the Chase bag as he leaves.
The FBI and Rolling Meadows police called him in for an interview Wednesday, and he changed his story. He said he had gone to Midlothian to meet a woman, and when she couldn't make their rendezvous, he went to the Walgreens to buy a drink and found the money.
As he drove home with the bag, he told authorities, he realized he had probably been captured on video. That settled any thoughts of keeping the cash. He dropped off the money and wove a tale he now attributes to bad judgment -- not dishonesty.
"I knew it wasn't exactly correct," he said, "but I knew the spirit of the story was true."
(c) 2011, Chicago Tribune.
Visit the Chicago Tribune, www.chicagotribune.com/.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.