A Detroit Man Went To Cash A Check From A Racial Discrimination Suit, Then He Was Racially Profiled By The Bank
It looks like a Detroit man is about to get settlement checks upon settlement checks.
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Sauntore Thomas of Detroit, Michigan, went to court on Tuesday to sue the TCF Bank for alleged racial discrimination. He cites he was discriminated against while attempting to deposit a series of checks at the Livonia Branch, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Thomas says four police officers were called when his checks reportedly read as fraudulent when they were entered into TCF's computer system. Two officers questioned him while he was inside the bank, while two stood outside to serve as guards.
"I didn't deserve treatment like that when I knew that the check was not fraudulent, I'm a United States veteran. I have an honorable discharge from the Air Force. They discriminated against me because I'm Black. None of this would have happened if I were white," Thomas stated.
While at the Livonia Branch, Thomas called Deborah Gordon, an employment law attorney, to assist in convincing bank officials that the checks were legitimate and an award from a previous settlement in which she represented Thomas. The bank still didn't budge.
While trying to complete his transaction, Assistant Branch Manager Erika Mack stated that the bank's verification system wasn't operational and that the checks would have to be "called in" in order for the transaction to be completed.
"How did you get this money?" Mack then asked Thomas.
Though Mack requested verification under the pretense of following bank regulations and paced back and forth in the bank, she actually called the police.
Tom Wennerberg, TCF Bank spokesman, stated that the bank "abhors racism and it was not a factor in how the bank handled Thomas' requests." He said that the checks Thomas submitted had a watermark that read as void when scanned. He then mentioned that the teller fulfilling Thomas' request was also Black and called police because she felt that "something didn't look right."
"Obviously, the customer got upset at that point," Wennerberg said. He added that Thomas had made a "highly, highly unusual request."
Thomas attempted to deposit three checks: one for $59,000, one for $27,000 and another for $13,000. Wennerberg added Thomas' account only had 52 cents in it. Thomas also requested to cash the $13,000 check, requested to open a savings account and asked for a replacement debit card as the one he had was not working.
"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," the bank said in a statement.
Lora Claypool of the Livonia Police Department's Detective Bureau also asked Gordon a series of questions in an email sent on Wednesday to verify the check's authenticity. Attached to the email were copies of paperwork from Thomas' previous federal lawsuit, which specified he had won a settlement against his former employer.
Thomas closed his account at TCF, went to a Chase Bank in Detroit and opened a new account. He deposited his checks, and his funds were available within 12 hours.
Though Thomas wasn't arrested and no charges were filed he was still reeling from the ordeal.
"I want to be vindicated, I feel very intimidated because I knew that if I would have gotten loud, they would have had me on the ground for disturbance of the peace. But I didn't get loud. I didn't get confrontation. I did nothing," Thomas 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."
Thomas is suing TCF for unspecified damages and is also demanding an apology for the "hellish experience" he endured.
Thomas originally received a large and undisclosed settlement from his former employer, Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit.
It's a new year and new lawsuits are in order.
On January 14, two Black senior executives filed a lawsuit against fast-food heavyweight McDonald's, citing discrimination, as Blavity previously reported.
In another case, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner sued the city alleging that her attempts to squash racial injustice are being undermined by white government officials in St. Louis, as Blavity previously reported.
"This is not about a single case or issue. This is about the fair administration of justice, " Gardner told CBS This Morning.
Gardner specifically recalls in the lawsuit that police union and city officials used tactics of intimidation to keep racial tensions high.