Black vet sues Michigan bank for refusing to deposit money awarded to him from racial discrimination suit

Screengrab Fox 2 Detroit

A black Air Force veteran who received a racial discrimination settlement may very well have another windfall coming his way as a result of that victory.

Sauntore Thomas, 44, claims the TCF Bank in Livonia, Michigan, refused to deposit checks totaling $99,000 that he presented and then called the police on him because of his race, Fox News affiliate WJBK-TV reported.

He was awarded the money in a racial discrimination lawsuit against his employer, the Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit, and the teller was having trouble verifying the check.

“I said I’ll just wait. She walked away and 10 minutes later Livonia police walk in and they say, ‘Excuse me can you come here?’ And I said, ‘Who, me?'” Thomas told WJBK, explaining that he was shaken, but maintained his composure.

“They said, ‘The bank called us and said these checks are fraudulent,'” he said. “And I said, ‘Are you kidding me, there’s no way. I need to call my attorney.'”

TCF spokesman Tom Wennerberg said the checks didn’t appear to be legitimate when scanned, according to Fox News. The spokesman added that Thomas’ account balance was 52 cents and he had no recent activity.

Four police officers reportedly responded to the incident but took no action.

“I didn’t start cussing and hollering. I didn’t say anything,” Thomas said. “I was very composed, even though it was a very stressful situation to be in, especially in today’s racial times.”

He added, “With being African-American, sometimes you don’t have to do nothing to be in trouble. And that’s what I felt like.”

Meanwhile, the veteran’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, was not pleased.

“I mean, it’s a ridiculous joke that some nationwide company is going to be handing out fraudulent checks to me, that I’m going them pass on to my client,” she said. “So obviously, they didn’t believe my client. It’s obvious.”

“People have to stop with these stereotypes just because you see an African-American male, set aside your stereotypes and conduct yourself like a professional,” the attorney added.

Thomas, who has closed his account and opened a new one at Chase — he reportedly had no trouble depositing the checks there — said the incident “was not a mistake.”

“This was the bank assuming, making their own assumptions of what it is, and what it’s not,” he said.

TCF Bank offered an apology in a statement, stressing that the issue was not being able to verify the checks.

“We apologize for the experience Mr. Thomas had at our banking center,” the release said. “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.”

That did not deter Gordon from filing a new racial discrimination lawsuit against TCF bank.

Tom Tillison

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