GAFFNEY, S.C. – There aren’t many secrets in a place like Gaffney, so when two heating and air conditioning workers suddenly quit their jobs and began buying stuff like a big screen TV, a used car and a riding lawn mower with $100 bills so old they didn’t even have the off-center portrait of Benjamin Franklin, people started talking.

Police said all that talk got back to Lois Brown, who had hired those men a few days earlier and made them a deal. She told the workers that just before her husband died seven years ago, he said he had hidden thousands of dollars in the basement. Her family never found the money.

If the workers discovered the cash, Brown said, they would be in for a big reward.

After hearing about their free-spending ways, Brown went to Joey Reed and Elie Spencer and made an offer. Keep what they bought and a bit more money for themselves, give the rest back to her and she wouldn’t go to police. They played dumb, and the law got involved, Gaffney Police Det. Brian Blanton said.

Now the men are facing grand larceny charges, accused of taking $100,000. And Brown has sued the owner of the company they once worked for to get her money back. She hasn’t seen any of the cash from the workers, Blanton said.

“They quit their jobs the day after they found the money,” Blanton said. “And they didn’t waste any time spending it.”