Black Man Alleges Racial Profiling After Bank Refuses To Cash Paycheck

A black man in Cleveland claims he was racially profiled at a local bank when tellers called the police on him for trying to cash a paycheck.

When Paul McCowns tried to cash his first paycheck from a job with an electric company on December 1, Huntington Bank employees called 911, according to WOIO, a CBS-affiliated television station in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I had got a new job. I worked there for about three weeks,” he said.

Huntington Bank Tower Cleveland
Photo Credit: Flickr: Tim Evanson

The paycheck was McCowns’ first check from his new job and was for about $1,000. Bank tellers asked him for two forms of ID and a fingerprint, per bank policy for non-Huntington customers who wish to cash checks and McCowns complied with their requests.

Tellers then looked at their computer screen, according to McCowns, and refused to cash the check without speaking to his employer.

“They tried to call my employer numerous times,” he said. “He never picked up the phone.”

McCowns said he left the bank, got in his truck and then a police car pulled in front of him. An officer then told him to get out of the car, McCowns said.

After McCowns had left the bank, employees called 911 on him, according to a WOIO report.

“He’s trying to cash a check and the check is fraudulent. It does not match our records,” said a bank teller to a 911 operator.

McCowns was handcuffed and put in the back of police cruiser. Minutes after he was arrested, police were able to reach McCowns’ employer who confirmed the check was real and that McCowns was an employee. Police confirmed to WOIO that there was no fraud involved with the check.

“My employer said yes he works for me. He just started and yes, my payroll company does pay him that much,” McCowns explained.

McCowns was able to cash the check the following day with no problems at another Huntington Bank branch.

He claims he believes bank employees were racially profiling him, but a bank representative said tellers were being hypervigilant

Huntington Bank Tower Cleveland
Photo Credit: Flickr: Tim Evanson

due to there having been 11 cases of fraud in the past few months at the branch McCowns initially visited.

“We sincerely apologize to Mr. McCowns for this extremely unfortunate event. We accept responsibility for contacting the police as well as our own interactions with Mr. McCowns,” Huntington Bank said in a statement.

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