911 call sheds light on Iraqi-American handcuffed at Wichita bank

911 call from Emprise Bank about check

Audio of 911 call from Emprise Bank after Sattar Ali tried to deposit a check Sept. 6, 2017. Ali was handcuffed and questioned by police when Emprise Bank couldn’t verify the legitimacy of the check.
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Audio of 911 call from Emprise Bank after Sattar Ali tried to deposit a check Sept. 6, 2017. Ali was handcuffed and questioned by police when Emprise Bank couldn’t verify the legitimacy of the check.

The bank employee who called 911 after an Iraqi-American man tried to deposit a check at a Wichita Emprise Bank branch told the dispatcher who took her call that the check was fake.

Response to the check — $151,000 from the sale of Sattar Ali’s home in Dearborn, Mich., earlier this month — resulted in Ali being handcuffed by authorities and taken to a downtown building for questioning on Sept. 6. His wife and 15-year-old daughter, who were waiting for Ali in a car outside the branch, at 2140 N. Woodlawn, also were detained.

Police later determined the check was real and released him and his family. Ali has said he thinks he and his family were racially profiled.

Emprise Bank chief operating officer Teri Ginther said the bank is “intolerant ... of discrimination of any kind.”

In a recording of the call released Friday by Sedgwick County Emergency Communications, the bank employee tells the dispatcher she’s contacting 911 because “a customer is here with a $151,000 fake check.”

When the dispatcher asks if the customer is trying to cash it, the employee says “Yes.” She then says, “Can you send somebody quick?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the dispatcher says. One minute, nine seconds into the recording the dispatcher tells the employee “your call is started,” meaning officers are being sent to the bank.

Asked then by the dispatcher whether there are any weapons involved, the employee replies: “No, what’s happening is he wanted me to deposit it so he could get cash in two days. And it’s not a good check.”

“And there’s no disturbance, correct?”

“No. He’s being overly friendly,” the employee says.

One minute, 50 seconds into the recording, the dispatcher asks, “Are there any injuries to report at all?”

“No, not yet,” the bank employee says.

Moments later, when asked for Ali’s name, the bank employee says she thinks he’s Pakistani. She gives Ali’s name when the dispatcher asks for it a second time.

The employee then described his height, build, hair color, age and clothing when prompted by the dispatcher.

“Did he come in alone?” the dispatcher asks.

“Yes. But that doesn’t mean that somebody isn’t outside.”

Nearly five minutes into the recording, the employee tells the dispatcher why she thinks the check is fake. She says the location of the bank doesn’t match what appears on the check, there’s no phone number listed on it, the watermark is missing and the customer’s name appears to have been altered.

Officers from the Wichita Police Department, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Highway Patrol were among the first at the scene. Law enforcement officials said Friday that when a call about a crime in progress goes out over emergency radio, whichever officers are closest to the location will respond regardless of their agency.

Ginther, the bank’s chief operating officer, said this week that multiple tellers who looked at the check thought it was fake. The system the bank uses to verify routing numbers said the one on the check wasn’t valid, she said.

“Our tellers go through weeks and months of training and they go through levels of progression in their job. ... We have rigorous training and evaluation and coaching and incentive programs for all of our branch staff,” she said.

“The decision to contact law enforcement was solely based on our internal procedures related to verifying fundamental security features and the routing number of a check. When we were unable to do that, we called law enforcement for assistance,” the bank said in a statement.

Both the bank and the Police Department have apologized to Ali and his family.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

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