Last June, Auburn resident Ikenna Njoku purchased his first home, a very exciting event in his life. As a first time buyer, he also qualified for a rebate on his tax return, which he was also pretty pleased about, especially since he planned to use the money to pay off his car, a silver Infinity I-30, a vehicle Njoku says he "loved," past tense, because the car was towed and sold after he made the terrible mistake of trying to cash his rebate check at a Chase branch, which resulted in not only the loss of his ride but a weekend in prison.
Njoku signed up to have the rebate deposited directly into his Chase Bank account. But when the IRS rebate arrived, there was a problem. Chase had closed Njoku’s account because of overdrawn checks in the past. The bank deducted $600 to cover what he owed them and mailed him a cashier’s check for the difference--$8,463.21. But when Njoku showed up at the Chase branch near his house intending to cash the check, he was in for a nasty surprise. The check had Njoku’s name and address on it and was issued by JP Morgan Chase. But the Chase Customer Banker who handles large checks at the Auburn branch was immediately suspicious.
“I was embarrassed,” Njoku said. “She asked me what I did for a living. Asked me where I got the check from, looked me up and down—like ‘you just bought a house in Auburn, really?’ She didn’t believe that,” he said.
Not only did Nancy Drew not believe it, but she was so confident in her suspicion that she empowered herself to seize the check, Njoku’s driver license and credit card and told him to wait while she put in a call for bank support. After 15 minutes Njoku decided to leave and run and errand, returning to a closed bank. He called customer service that night, which advised him to go back the next day and get his cash. That's when the fun really started!
...when Njoku arrived, it wasn’t the money that was waiting for him. “They just threw me in jail; they called the police and said this guy has a fraudulent check,” Njoku said. Auburn police arrested him for forgery - a felony crime. Auburn Police Commander Dave Colglazier said Chase could have done a lot more to let them know they’d locked up an innocent man. “We do have a main line that comes into our front office,” he said. “There are ways to reach someone 24/7 at a police department.”
By the time Njoku got out on Monday, he'd lost his job and his car, which had been towed from the bank parking lot and auctioned off (he didn't have the money to get it back because it was weeks before Chase actually cashed his check, natch), which helped him fall into a depression for months. A year later, Njoku hasn't received so much as a sorry from the bank, though after being contacted by a lawyer, a spokeswoman did have this to say: "We received the letter and are reviewing the situation. We'll be reaching out to the customer."
Perhaps they should consider reaching out to the customer by pulling up to his new house in a replacement Infinity filled with the money they owe him (and then some) and a huge "Sorry" decal across the hood. It wouldn't be enough but it would be a good way to start.