Chase Bank workers recovering after odd deposit at Modesto branch: (Unknown) BioHazard Event

By Erin Tracy etracy@modbee.com

Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012

By Erin Tracy      The Modesto Bee

MODESTO — An investigation continued Saturday into the intent of a man who deposited money at a Chase Bank that is believed to have sickened six employees there.

A man carried a large amount of money wrapped in a paper towel into the Chase Bank branch at Tully Road and Standiford Avenue on Friday afternoon.

He left after having the money deposited into his account and a short time later the teller who assisted him broke out in hives and felt short of breath. She had contact with two other employees, who soon exhibited similar symptoms.

Modesto police detectives have talked to the 37-year-old Modesto man who brought the money to the bank, said officer Scott Nelson.

He said the man was being cooperative and had not been arrested, so Nelson would not release his name. Nelson would not discuss what the man told detectives about what might have been on the money and why he carried it in a paper towel.

He would not say how much money the man deposited or what the denominations were.

On Friday night, the county’s hazardous materials unit donned what looked like spacesuits to test the money for contaminants. It tested positive for a chemical but determining its composition will require more tests at a lab, which could take two to three weeks, Nelson said.

A total of six employees were taken to hospitals after being hosed down Friday afternoon in a temporary decontamination area set up in a parking lot outside the bank.

Nelson said all have since been released from hospitals and are recovering.

A friend of one employee said she was still itchy Saturday but otherwise doing well. The bank employee declined an interview.

The Chase Bank on Tully remained closed Saturday while a security guard stood out front and a cleaning crew spent about eight hours decontaminating the interior.

The bank’s windows were covered with paper and a note on the door apologized to customers for the inconvenience. It suggested nearby Chase branches that customers could go to, but did not indicate when that branch might reopen.

Attempts on Saturday to reach a Chase Bank representative were unsuccessful