PROVO — It's amazing how much trash can fit into the back of a garbage truck after just a few trips around the block.

A Provo woman found out just how much after she accidentally tossed a stack of checks worth $188,000 into the trash at her home Tuesday.

The woman, who asked not to be named, usually receives a number of checks on Monday as part of her work. Normally, she gets the checks together and deposits the bunch on Monday afternoon. A hectic day at home this past Monday, however, didn't leave the woman enough time to make it to the bank.

"Tuesday morning, when I went to make the deposit, I couldn't find it," she said.

After frantically searching her desk for the checks and digging through her purse and filing cabinets, the woman decided she must have thrown the checks away with the empty envelopes they arrived in. It was then she began to think the checks might have gone out with her trash.

Unfortunately, Tuesday is trash day and a quick check by her son proved the trash collector had already made his rounds at her home for the day.

The woman hopped in her car and soon caught up to the garbage truck after making a few laps around the neighborhood. The driver, however, dealt the woman some troubling news.

"You know, I've probably picked up 75 cans since I was at your house," she said the driver told her. "And there's no way you're going to find it. It's like a needle in a haystack. I've had people throw away like $10,000 in cash, and they haven't been able to find it out there."

The woman said she insisted, telling the driver the money wasn't hers and adding that the amount was nearly $200,000. She said the driver got on the phone and told her that after one more stop, she could follow him out to the landfill where they could empty the truck and search for the checks.

When the woman arrived at the landfill with a friend, her task appeared all the more daunting.

"The amount of garbage that fits in those trucks is amazing, it was this huge pile," the woman said.

Brad Rollins, sanitation manager for Provo city, said he asked the woman if they were looking for a deposit bag or something like that. The answer was a white kitchen garbage bag.

"Of course, in the truck, most of the bags are white," he said. "So, we were looking at it like it was going to take us hours to go through this to find it."

The next thing Rollins knew, he said, the woman and her friend had gathered together to say a prayer. After the prayer, he said the woman's friend grabbed a white bag and told him the checks would be in a bag just like that one. Rollins said he reached into the bag and pulled the checks out of the middle of it.

"We were out at the dump maybe 5 minutes and we found it," the woman said.

He said he was just happy they were able to find it, adding that he'd hate to have $188,000 over his head.

"That shows you what the power of prayer does for you," Rollins said he told the woman.

He said he receive similar requests for missing items two or three times a year.

"Never like this," he said. "It's always been a purse or a checkbook or something, but never, never like this."


E-mail: jdavis@desnews.com