June 16--When Chicago residents Nathan Huynh and Tina Tran woke up Sunday morning, they did what they've been doing every morning for the past week: They checked Twitter for the latest hidden cash clues.
Around 10 a.m., the two found what they said was their sixth cash-filled envelope, this one taped to a pole in an alleyway behind Crabbby Kim's Bikini Bar in the North Center neighborhood. It was there that they were met by a Tribune photographer and reporter who had been waiting at the spot for 45 minutes after decoding the clue.
The $40 prize was left by @Clue_King, one of several anonymous social media users who in recent weeks have been hiding envelopes of cash in major U.S. cities. Since June 8, the friends, both 18, have collected $370.
"It seems kind of impossible, ... but when we got the first one it was kind of easy," Huynh said. "It's been fun. We actually learned more about Chicago this way."
Huynh said they learned about the hidden-cash craze last weekend when people behind the Twitter account @HiddenCash left envelopes all over San Francisco and other cities.
California real estate investor Jason Buzi said in a recent CNN interview that he is one of several people behind @HiddenCash. Others unaffiliated with that account have helped spread the trend across the country.
About 20 envelopes containing a total of $1,500 were sprinkled across Millennium Park and Oz Park on Sunday, the account user told the Tribune in an email.
Peotone resident Fernando Fernandez found one of those envelopes underneath a bench by the Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as the Bean. It contained $60.
Fernandez said he made the 45-minute drive north to Chicago just to find an envelope.
"I thought I got to try and come out," he said. "There were tons of people out there looking for the envelopes."
Fernandez and others said they planned to "pay it forward" with their cash prizes.
While Huynh and Tran said they might use some of the money for college expenses -- starting this fall, Huynh will attend the University of Illinois at Chicago and Tran is going to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana -- they said they plan to give away some of their winnings to homeless people in the Uptown neighborhood.
The Tribune reporter and photographer beat the two scavengers to the site after an editor recognized the clues on Twitter. They then waited to see who would show up next.
Jill Mueller, 28, of Chicago said she planned to share her $50 prize with a friend who she said could use the money.
"I was kind of shocked, like, 'Oh, I actually got one,'" said Mueller, who found a @Clue_King envelope in a RedEye news rack near her home in North Center. "I know the whole point behind it is to pay it forward which is a nice message also."
Posts from the @HiddenCash account indicated on Twitter that more envelopes could be hidden in Chicago on Monday.
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