Sauntore Thomas Detroit TCF Bank racial discrimination lawsuit drama: Did a Livonia branch deny cashing in a check cause of a customer’s skin color?
Sauntore Thomas, 44, claims TCF Bank employees refused to cash or deposit his settlement check on Tuesday at a branch in Livonia, leading cops to respond and a fraud investigation be launched, the Detroit Free Press reports.
‘I didn’t deserve treatment like that when I knew that the check was not fraudulent,’ Thomas told the outlet. ‘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, who had an account at the bank close to two years, sued TCF Bank on Wednesday, alleging racial discrimination by the bank for calling police, prompting four cops to respond to the branch.
While Thomas declined to indicate the amount of the settlement check, he revealed it was part of a confidential agreement in a federal lawsuit against his former employer, Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit.
Thomas went so far at to call his employment law attorney while at the bank in a bid to convince bank employees that the check was authentic.
‘I got on the phone with the bank,’ attorney Deborah Gordon explained. ‘I sent them my federal court complaint, to see that it matched. I did everything.’
Gordon maintains her client was denied as a result of his race.
‘Obviously, assumptions were made the minute he walked in based on his race,’ the attorney continued. ‘It’s unbelievable that this guy got done with a race discrimination case and he’s not allowed to deposit the check based on his case? It’s absolutely outrageous.’
Not true reckons TCF Bank.
Black Man Sued Employer for Racism, then Bank Refused to Cash his Settlement Check! Instead, they Called the Police#BankingWhileBlack
— WOKEVIDEO (@wokevideo) January 24, 2020
Did one black customer make a highly unusual request? ‘None of this would have happened if I were white,’ Sauntore Thomas said.
‘We apologize for the experience Mr. Thomas had at our banking center,’ TCF Bank spokesman Tom Wennerberg told the nypost in a statement. ‘Local police should not have been involved. We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind. We take extra precautions involving large deposits and requests for cash and in this case, we were unable to validate the checks presented by Mr. Thomas and regret we could not meet his needs.’
Reiterated the vet’s attorney: ‘They could have just called the bank that issued the checks, and they apparently didn’t do anything because it would have all been verified immediately.’
According to TCF’s Wennerberg, Thomas presented three checks written from Enterprise that day: One for $59,000. One for $27,000. And one for $13,000.
‘They couldn’t verify that those checks were due to a settlement,’ said Wennerberg, adding the bank contacted Enterprise to verify that the checks were part of a lawsuit, but were unable to do so.
Wennerberg said the assistant manager who waited on Thomas was African American, and felt that something didn’t ‘look right,’ so she called police.
‘Obviously, the customer got upset at that point,’ Wennerberg said, adding Thomas had made a ‘highly, highly unusual request.’
How was it that one bank was able to verify the authenticity of checks presented while another wasn’t able to?
According to Wennerberg, Thomas wanted to deposit the two larger checks in his bank account, which, Wennerberg said, had only 52 cents in it. And he wanted to cash the $13,000 check, he said, adding the bank told him that those funds would be on hold for two business days, and that Thomas said ‘fine.’ Thomas also wanted a new debit card because, he told the bank, his old one wasn’t working, he said, adding that request sounded unusual as well.
Thomas, who is suing for unspecified damages, was not arrested or charged during Tuesday’s visit to TCF Bank, where its computer system read his check as fraudulent, according to cops.
That said, the check cleared 12 hours later after Thomas opened a new account at a Chase bank in Detroit. The Air Force vet who previously walked to work then used the funds to buy a 2004 Dodge Durango, the Free Press reports.
‘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,’ Thomas said. ‘But I didn’t get loud … I did nothing.’