Bank business turns ugly for local man
Jeremy Lazarus | 5/5/2017, 7:30 p.m.
Every two weeks like clockwork, Jeffrey Perry has deposited his paycheck at the Wells Fargo bank branch in Mechanicsville located a few blocks from his workplace.
So the 55-year-old Church Hill resident was unprepared for what happened when he stopped at the branch on April 21 and gave his latest paycheck to the teller whom he said routinely waited on him.
He’s still quivering with rage over what came next — a cautionary tale about how banking relationships can turn sour.
Instead of depositing the check and giving him a receipt, the teller huddled with several other staff members and the bank manager, Alvin Bulanadi, who took the check into his office.
Mr. Perry said he ended up cooling his heels in the lobby for 40 minutes until Mr. Bulanadi approached and loudly told him, “You are trying to commit a fraud on this bank.” Mr. Perry said everyone within earshot heard the statement.
Mr. Perry said he felt like he had crossed into the Twilight Zone where he, an African-American, was being punished for trying to put money into a bank branch whose customers are predominately white.
“I was in shock. I felt humiliated, defamed,” said Mr. Perry, who said he had no idea what was going on or why the paycheck from his employer, mental health service provider Intensive Community Outreach Service, was different from the previous 26 company checks he had successfully deposited at the branch during the last year.
“Everyone was looking at me,” he said. “I wanted to shrink into the floor. It was just painful to go through this.”
He said after Mr. Bulanadi refused to return his check, he left. He said no one showed up to arrest him despite Mr. Bulanadi’s accusation that he was trying to commit a crime.
Mr. Bulanadi did not respond to a Free Press request for comment about the incident. However, bank spokesperson Kristy Marshall confirmed the incident and defended the manager and staff’s treatment of Mr. Perry.
“Wells Fargo followed appropriate steps to ensure that the check presented was a valid check,” Ms. Marshall stated.
“In this particular case, there were red flags on the check that caused our teller and branch manager to verify the check through our proper systems. The decision to not accept the check was not made by the team members inside of the branch, but by our offsite loss management department,” she stated.
Mr. Perry, who has retained an attorney to seek redress, said he is not happy.
“Her response does not address the public humiliation, slander and discrimination that I suffered,” he said. “What else could I have expected?”
He said that he still doesn’t understand why he was accused of a crime. At the time, his checking and savings account had a combined $2,900, more than enough to cover the $1,600 check.
“Plus, I wasn’t trying to cash the check,” he said. “I was just trying to put the check into my account. How is that an attempt to defraud the bank?”