Trials & Litigation

Bank called police when bias lawsuit plaintiff tried to deposit his settlement checks, lawsuit says

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A plaintiff who settled a race discrimination lawsuit against his employer alleges TCF Bank called the police when he tried to deposit his settlement checks and withdraw some of the money.

Now Sauntore Thomas is a plaintiff in a new discrimination lawsuit filed against the bank on Wednesday, according to the Detroit Free Press, which broke the story. The suit claims Thomas was targeted for “banking while black, according to New York Times coverage.

Thomas says he went to a TCF branch in Livonia, Michigan, on Tuesday to deposit the checks and open an additional savings account. He hoped to withdraw some of the money. The assistant branch manager who helped Thomas asked where he got the money and said the bank’s computerized verification system was not working, according to Thomas’ lawsuit.

The assistant branch manager said she was going to call in the checks for verification. She actually called the police, Thomas says.

Thomas says his lawyer assured both the bank and police in a phone call that the checks were legitimate. The bank still refused to accept the checks and filed a police report alleging check fraud, Thomas’ lawsuit says. He was never arrested, however, and no charges were filed.

Thomas says he deposited the checks in a new account he opened at Chase bank in the next hour. The checks cleared within 12 hours. He closed his existing TCF account.

TCF spokesman Tom Wennerberg told the Free Press that the bank investigated because Thomas’ checks had a watermark that read “void” when scanned into a web viewer. Thomas’ former employer, the defendant in the employment lawsuit, was unable to verify the checks were due to a settlement, Wennerberg said.

Wennerberg said Thomas wanted to cash a $13,000 check and asked for a new debit card because his wasn’t working. He wanted to deposit two other checks for $59,000 and $27,000. The bank’s responses to Thomas were based on the requests he was making, Wennerberg told the Free Press.

Wennerberg told the newspaper that racism was not a factor in how the bank handled the situation. He also said the assistant manager who waited on Thomas was African American.

The bank issued this statement to the Free Press: “TCF Bank is a diverse business serving a diverse community and we abhor racism in all forms. Mr. Thomas’ transaction was handled like any other transactions involving requests for large amounts of cash. We regret any inconvenience to Mr. Thomas.”

Thomas told the Free Press he didn’t deserve the treatment he got from the bank. “None of this would have happened if I were white,” he said.

“I had a very long journey and I feel like I have to go through the same thing again. It’s frustrating, but I do know God is in control. I will be vindicated because I didn’t do anything wrong.”

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