updated 1/12/2010 8:57:41 AM ET 2010-01-12T13:57:41

A New York City cab driver is being praised for returning over $21,000 lost by a visitor from Italy.

Felicia Lettieri, who's 72, left her purse in a Manhattan taxi on Christmas Eve. It contained traveling money for her and six relatives.

Police told them not to get their hopes up about finding it.

The cabbie drove about 50 miles, to a Long Island address he'd found in the purse. No one was home, so he left his phone number, and later returned with the money.

Lettieri's daughter, Maria Rosaria Falonga, told Newsday from Pompei, Italy, that the cabbie also left a note.

He told her: "Don't worry, Felicia. ... I'll keep it safe."

"When I was 5 years old, my mother told me, 'Be honest, work hard and you will raise your station,' " said the driver, Mukul Asaduzzaman, to the N.Y. Post newspaper. He refused a reward.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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