A new friend on the bench

Long Beach teen returns City Court judge’s lost wallet


Long Beach City Court Judge Corey Klein had finished spending a day at the beach on a recent Sunday with his wife, Jenna, when the couple left to grab a bite in the West End.

“She wanted to have dinner at Minnesota’s,” said Klein, “She heard they had a new menu.”

It was about 8 p.m. on Aug. 5 when Klein parked his car on Michigan Street, grabbed his wallet and phone and began walking east on West Beech Street toward the eatery.

“We get there and I’m about to go in and I feel that I don’t have my wallet in my bathing suit pocket,” said Klein, 50. “I said to my wife, ‘I think I dropped it.’ Everything was in there.”

Klein, a lifelong Long Beach resident who was elected City Court judge in 2014, retraced his steps and searched the sidewalk and trash cans, but was unsuccessful.

“I’m hoping that someone had picked it up,” said Klein, adding that he notified the Police Department. “I’m looking all over and can’t find it.”

The wallet not only contained Klein’s driver’s license, credit cards and other personal information, but also a photograph of his grandmother that has sentimental value.

“What really upset me about losing the wallet was, when I was in ninth or 10th grade in Long Beach High School, I took a photography class, and I took a picture of my grandmother and developed it,” said Klein. “And I had it in my wallet this whole time — that’s what was really upsetting me, because I don’t have the negatives.

“I go home and I’m thinking I better call [the credit card companies] because I also had my bank card and credit cards in there,” he added. “I’m in the middle of cancelling my credit cards, figuring all of this out and all of a sudden my house phone goes off.”

That night, Klein said he received a call from Gerrin Hagen, a 13-year-old West End resident who found the wallet on West Beech Street in front of the Knights of Columbus, between Michigan Street and Minnesota Avenue. Hagen, who was walking to the Cabana to have dinner with his family, said he immediately attempted to return the wallet and informed his parents and relatives.

“When I found it, I was like, I didn’t really think about taking the money, I kept thinking about whose wallet it is,” said Gerrin, who will enter eighth grade at Long Beach Middle School next month. “My aunt Googled him and we found his number.”

Relieved by the news, Klein rushed to the Cabana with his daughter and thanked Gerrin and his family “profusely.”

“I run in and I’m looking for someone and there’s this kid just sitting there,” Klein said. “Some guy says to me, ‘Judge Klein? Gerrin here found your wallet.’ When he gives me my wallet, I took all the money I had on me and gave it to him. I was so excited that I must’ve seemed like a bumbling idiot to these people.”

Gerrin said the fact that he was able to return the photo of Klein’s grandmother “really made my day.”

Klein said he was so grateful that the item was returned, he honored the teen in front of the entire courtroom on Aug. 10.

“I told everybody in the courtroom the story and about his honesty and integrity,” Klein said. “I’m glad I was able to recognize Gerrin for being able to do the right thing. People started clapping in the courtroom — the lawyers, the defendants — everyone was clapping for the kid.”

Klein said he also asked a member of Project 11561, a local community Facebook page that has more than 11,000 followers, to share the story in order to further recognize Gerrin. The Aug. 13 post has garnered more than 1,000 likes, 60 shares and 100 comments praising the teen’s actions.

“Everything now with kids is social media,” said Klein. “I thought at least the kids will see it on Facebook and recognize it. I thought it would be a nice way to show my appreciation.”

For his part, Gerrin, who plays hockey with Long Beach Lightning, said he appreciated the recognition but was a bit surprised by all the attention.

“I didn’t really think it was a big deal,” he said. “I just a found a guy’s wallet on the street. I would’ve done the same for anyone else.”