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Chase Bank Arrests Jails Man 4 Days for Cashing Its Own Cashiers Check WA

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In The News

Chase Bank is accused of racial discrimination after a black man is wrongly jailed on forgery charges by its Auburn branch–the man simply trying to cash a legitimate cashier’s check issued by the bank itself. 28-year-old Ikenna Njoku spent 4 nights in jail, had his car impounded and lost his job after Chase bank officials inexplicably had him arrested at a Washington branch.
The construction worker just purchased a first home, qualifying for a federal rebate offered to first-time home buyers on an annual tax return. Njoku says he requested to have the federal rebate amount of roughly $9,000 deposited directly into his Chase bank account – a bank location in Auburn, Washington -- but when the IRS tax rebate arrived, the construction worker discovered Chase had closed his bank account. The reason Chase gave for closing the bank account: overdrawn checks.
Chase Bank deducted $600, supposedly to cover what he owed including fees, then mailed Njoku a cashier's check in the amount of $8,463.21 – the remaining balance amount owed to the (now) former account holder.
But when Njoku arrived at the Auburn Chase Bank location to cash the check issued by Chase, he says the bank teller began acting suspicious of him. “When I walked in, the teller looked me up and down and asked if I worked for Chase,” Njoku told KING 5 News. “She asked me questions like where did I get the check from. I sat there for half an hour while they researched the [Chase] check.” Njoku finally left the bank briefly, telling Chase teller he’d run an errand and return. But when Njoku returned the bank was closed for the day.
The man says he called Chase Bank’s customer service – and that he was told to return to the Auburn bank the following day. But that’s when things turned really bad. When Njoku went back into the same Washington bank, bank officials allegedly claimed the check was fake – calling police to arrest Njoku at the bank, with charges of forgery. The man was held in jail for four nights, despite the fact Chase claims it called Auburn police. Chase Bank supposedly called the detective handling the case, and left a message that the arrest had been a mistake, according to Njoku's lawyer to KING 5. Unfortunately the detective had the day off work – which meant Njoku’s night in jail was instantly extended, through the weekend and into what became four nights.
Njoku’s lawyer Felix Luna says: "He [Njoku] had two forms of valid ID, a check issued by Chase [bank], he walked in there [to the Auburn Chase Bank location] during normal business hours. I don't see any valid basis for suspicion in the first place.”
The bank disaster has caused a slew of problems for Njoku, a man with origins in Nigeria who lost his car and job over the incident. The car he drove to Chase Bank, on the day bank officials had him arrested, was towed from the Washington location – then auctioned off because the construction worker was unable to cover impound fees for the car’s return. At that point, Auburn police were holding the original cashier's check and Chase had not chosen to reissue the cashier's check -- so the car was auctioned off after 30 days. Without a vehicle to get to his job, Njoku subsequently lost his then-current construction job. He’s been forced to use his mother's car since, to get what temporary construction jobs he can.
While no lawsuit has yet been filed over the June 2010 incident, the Seattle-based attorney who’s been handling Njoku’s case over the past two months says he believes the bank involved is responsible for violating federal laws that prohibit discrimination in banking transactions based on race or presumed national origin. Translation: there's a lawsuit looming, unless Chase chooses to really make good on the situation that's being dubbed racial discrimination against a black man.
Even after admitting its mistake, the bank did not immediately reissue another cashier's check to Njoku or give him the more than $8,000 the financial institution was retaining, his lawyer claims. Funds were stuck with the Auburn police department. It was nearly one entire month before Njoku received the money back from Auburn Police in Washington, which finally released the original cashier's check to him.
Njoku and his lawyer say the first time they’ve heard from Chase Bank is this week, which happens to coincide with media exposure – and despite the fact, the lawyer says, that Chase Bank has been contacted repeatedly about the incident since its occurrence more than a year ago in June 2010.
It seems a news break has been most effective change in the Chase saga. Soon after the story aired on KING 5 news, a Chase spokeswoman issued apology to Njoku – the first apology the man’s gotten since he was arrested at the bank a year ago in June. "This is a very unfortunate and unusual situation," says Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot of Chase -- in an apology relayed through KING 5 News. "We [Chase Bank] apologize to Mr. Njoku and deeply regret what happened to him. We are working quickly to understand all the details so we can reach a fair resolution."
Of course, a manager at the Chase Bank branch in Auburn – the branch where it all went down and which allegedly called the police on the Nigerian man -- has refused any public comment.


Chase Bank - Auburn (WA) Branch
24 A Street SE
Auburn, WA 98002
United States
Phone: (253) 833-8700
47° 18' 24.21" N, 122° 13' 41.7936" W
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