A couple from the Philippines who’s suing JPMorgan Chase says the bank sold $8 to $10 million worth of their valuables that had been placed in the lender’s safe deposit boxes in New York.
Jorge and Stella Araneta live in the Philippines but own an apartment in New York City, according to a complaint they filed on March 22, 2022, in the Southern District of New York. The couple alleges the bank opened four out of seven of their safe deposit boxes after they failed to pay their rent, according to the complaint, which Insider viewed.
The Arnetas allege that they fell behind on their payments for the safe boxes because the bank sent the bills to the wrong address. The bank sent two final notices for the renewal of two boxes to a Louisiana PO Box that did not belong to and was not authorized by the couple, they said. The notices were returned to the bank.
The complaint did not specifically state how the Aranetas eventually realized that they had not paid for the four boxes, but said they paid the outstanding rent in full in October 2019 when they were at the bank in person to renew leases. The bank assured them at the time their valuables that were removed would be returned.
However, JPMorgan still auctioned their items, per the complaint.
The couple estimates the contents of the safe deposit boxes to be worth $8 to $10 million. They did not provide a basis for this estimation in the complaint. JPMorgan sold the items for $552,700 in the early summer of 2020, per the complaint.
JPMorgan declined to comment.
In their complaint, the Aranetas said they started renting the safe deposit boxes in 2006 and renewed the leases annually. The filing did not state how much the leases cost initially, but the couple made four payments of $190.53 each in May 2014 for the safe deposit boxes, per the complaint.
On or around February 17, 2017, JPMorgan drilled open four of their safe deposit boxes without notifying them and removed the contents, per the complaint.
Now, the couple is seeking compensation for their valuables. Court filings showed the contents of the safes included jewelry, Rolex watches, and gold coins. The complaint includes a five-page list of exhibits of items the couple says were inside the deposit boxes.
On Wednesday, US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald rejected one of the lawsuit’s claims based on the interpretation of New York banking law, according to the court filing seen by Insider.
The case is proceeding with negligence and other counts.