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Black Men Gets $$$ From Discrimination Lawsuit. Bank Refuses To Cash The Check And Calls Police.

Black Ambrosia

Well-Known Member
Detroit man settles race discrimination lawsuit, then bank won't cash his check





Sauntore Thomas is reeling from a one-two punch.

First, the Detroiter sued his employer alleging racial discrimination in a lawsuit that settled confidentially. Then he went to the bank this week to cash his settlement checks, but the Livonia bank refused to cash or deposit his checks. Instead, they called the cops and initiated a fraud investigation — actions that dumbfounded Thomas and his lawyer, triggering another lawsuit.

On Wednesday, Thomas sued TCF Bank for alleged race discrimination, saying the Livonia branch mistreated and humiliated him by calling four police officers when all he was trying to do was deposit legitimate checks. According to police, the bank's computer system read the checks as fraudulent.

TCF Bank spokesman Tom Wennerberg said Thursday that TCF abhors racism and it was not a factor in how the bank handled Thomas' requests. He said the checks Thomas presented displayed a watermark that read VOID when they were scanned in a web viewer.

Thomas isn't buying it, noting the check cleared 12 hours later. He's upset that two officers questioned him inside the bank, while two others stood guard outside, he said, adding he was an account holder for nearly two years at that TCF branch.

"I didn't deserve treatment like that when I knew that the check was not fraudulent," Thomas told the Free Press. "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."

Thursday afternoon, TCF issued an apology:

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

Thomas could not disclose the amount of the settlement due to it being part of a confidential agreement stemming from a federal lawsuit against his former employer, Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit. He said he ended up going to a Chase bank in Detroit that day, opened an account and successfully deposited the checks there. The money was made available within 12 hours.

Thomas said that while he was at the Livonia bank, he called his lawyer — prominent employment law attorney Deborah Gordon — for help in explaining that his checks were a legitimate, civil suit settlement. But the bank wouldn't take her word for it, either.

"I got on the phone with the bank. I sent them my federal court complaint, to see that it matched. I did everything," said Gordon, who believes her client was scrutinized because of the color of his skin.

"Obviously, assumptions were made the minute he walked in based on his race. It's unbelievable that this guy got done with a race discrimination case and he’s not allowed to deposit the checks based on his case? It's absolutely outrageous," said Gordon, stressing all of this could have been avoided.

"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."

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.

Wennerberg said he had not yet seen the race discrimination lawsuit that Gordon filed against TCF on Wednesday, but denied that the bank engaged in discriminatory behavior.

"We disagree with that," Wennerberg said. "We were looking at the behavior, the asks that he was making."

The bank also issued a statement Thursday: “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 Livonia Police officer assigned to the case did not return requests for comment, though she explained some of the bank's concerns in an email she sent on Wednesday to Gordon, in which she asked for help in establishing the checks' authenticity.

"Do you have a contact person that you were dealing with at Enterprise that would be able to confirm for me that these checks are in fact legitimate," read the email from Lora Claypool of the Livonia Police Department's Detective Bureau.

"The problem that the bank is having is that these check(s) appear different then (the company's) payroll checks so their computer system is telling them that they are fraud. If I can confirm that they are not fraudulent, by getting a hold of Enterprise Leasing Company then I can give that information to the bank, and we can resolve this situation."

According to the email, the officers at the bank did receive copies of the lawsuit from Gordon, but "they wanted to make contact with Enterprise to confirm."

Thomas was not arrested. No charges were filed.

Meanwhile, Thomas, 44, is demanding answers from the bank. He is suing for unspecified damages, and wants an apology from the bank for putting him through what he describes as a hellish experience. According to Thomas, this is what happened at the TCF branch on Middlebelt Road in Livonia that day.

About 3 p.m. Tuesday, Thomas entered the and filled out a sign-in sheet to meet with a banking specialist to open an additional savings account and deposit his checks. He eventually met with Assistant Branch Manager Erika Mack, gave her his checks and explained that he would like to open a savings account, deposit the checks and withdraw some cash.

Mack immediately appeared suspicious, explained the checks would need to be “verified” but that the bank's computerized “verification system” was not working that day. Because of this malfunction, Mack said she would have to call in the checks to complete the transaction. She then walked away to a back area to "call in the checks," but before leaving, she asked Thomas: "How did you get this money?"

Thomas answered the money was from a lawsuit settlement.

After a few minutes, Mack returned and stated that the person who verifies checks “was not around.” Thomas said he'd wait until that person showed up.

Turned out, the assistant bank manager was not going to-and-from a back area to complete Thomas' transaction, but rather had called the Livonia Police and reported that Thomas was trying to deposit fraudulent checks.

Within 10 minutes, two Livonia Police officers arrived inside the lobby; two others remained outside the doors.

One of the officers told Thomas that the bank had reported "a problem" with his checks, and wanted to know where he got them.

Thomas explained the lawsuit, gave the officer his lawyer's business card, and then called his lawyer himself for help.

Two officers spoke with Gordon, who also explained to the officers and an assistant bank manager that Thomas had settled a federal lawsuit involving race discrimination, and that he was trying to deposit his settlement checks.

The bank still refused to deposit them, the lawsuit states, and then filed a police report against Thomas for check fraud.

Thomas closed his TCF account that day and left the premises. Within an hour, he deposited the checks into a new account at a Chase bank in Detroit. They cleared within 12 hours. Thomas, who had no car and walked to work, used the money to buy a 2004 Dodge Durango.

"I want to be vindicated," said Thomas, who feared being arrested that day.

"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 confrontational. 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."


Gordon, meanwhile, scoffed at the bank's claims that her client's checks appeared to be fraudulent, adding she picked the checks up from the Butzel Long law firm that day, and had a courier deliver them to her client.

"The checks have never been considered fraudulent, they are proceeds against a settlement written on a check from a large, United States corporation that I received from a major law firm. No one is issuing fraudulent checks," Gordon said. "This whole thing is insane."
 

Black Ambrosia

Well-Known Member
This is disturbing on many levels but I'm most upset right now that the world knows he got paid almost $100k. They didn't disclose the settlement amount but those checks are pretty large. If that's the entire settlement then I wonder if he's somehow in breach of the NDA. Even if he's not, this is like putting a target on someone's back. Nevermind cousins looking for money. He'll have people trying to rob him.

The irony of suing for discrimination and then being discriminated when you try to claim the settlement...
 

Laela

Sidestepping the "lynch mob"
Aw man...that's unfortunate. I doubt he'd have been treated that way at Liberty Bank...there's a branch in Detroit. :look:
 

MACGlossChick

Well-Known Member
I work for a financial institution and there are some red flags on his part, but that assistant manager was completely in the wrong for calling the police so soon. That should have been a last resort if he had been disruptive or something. She could have easily just put an extended hold on those checks (which is allowed due to the amount) waited for them to clear, inform him of what fees there would be if the checks were fraudulent, and do whatever investgating she needed to do during the hold period. He wouldn't be getting a significant amount of that money for at least 7-10 business days. If he didn't like that just refuse the deposit.

And no financial institution that I know will verify checks over the phone, unless it's a cashier's check
 

LdyKamz

Well-Known Member
This is so upsetting. I've had this happen on several occasions where clients have called me while they were either trying to deposit or cash their settlement checks and told me the bank is giving them problems talking about "suspicious activity". Every single time I call the bank I usually have what sounds like a black person on the other end giving me a hard time asking me for closing papers, settlement documents and other stuff that my client has already shown them! And every single time I ask why don't you just call the company that issued the check like you'd normally do instead of outright denying them and disrupting my day with this! Never a direct response. It's pure discrimination. I hope the man in the OP gets another hefty settlement from this bogus bank.
 

fluffyforever

Well-Known Member
I work for a financial institution and there are some red flags on his part, but that assistant manager was completely in the wrong for calling the police so soon. That should have been a last resort if he had been disruptive or something. She could have easily just put an extended hold on those checks (which is allowed due to the amount) waited for them to clear, inform him of what fees there would be if the checks were fraudulent, and do whatever investgating she needed to do during the hold period. He wouldn't be getting a significant amount of that money for at least 7-10 business days. If he didn't like that just refuse the deposit.

And no financial institution that I know will verify checks over the phone, unless it's a cashier's check
My bank routinely called me to verify checks I wrote to my landlord (my mom) for rent. I have no idea why since we both bank at the same bank and that is the only check I ever write every month and it’s only $500. But she would stand there at the teller while the teller called me to make sure I wrote the check.

I had other banks do it to me, I’m standing at the teller trying to deposit a check and they call the owner of the account or the bank on which the check was drawn.
 

futureapl

Well-Known Member
I work for a financial institution and there are some red flags on his part, but that assistant manager was completely in the wrong for calling the police so soon. That should have been a last resort if he had been disruptive or something. She could have easily just put an extended hold on those checks (which is allowed due to the amount) waited for them to clear, inform him of what fees there would be if the checks were fraudulent, and do whatever investgating she needed to do during the hold period. He wouldn't be getting a significant amount of that money for at least 7-10 business days. If he didn't like that just refuse the deposit.

And no financial institution that I know will verify checks over the phone, unless it's a cashier's check
Out of curiosity is there any law in the banking world that prohibits banks from disclosing account balances? It seems very odd to me that they would provide that type of information to someone who isn't the account holder.
 

Laela

Sidestepping the "lynch mob"
Yep.. and he's already filed his suit against the bank ... :yep:

AFTER WINNING A RACIAL DISCRIMINATION SUIT, A DETROIT MAN SUES THE BANK FOR NOT CASHING THE CHECK

Sauntore Thomas:
“I didn’t deserve treatment like that when I knew that the check was not fraudulent,” Thomas told the Detroit Free Press. “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.”

Based on the treatment of Thomas that day, he has filed another racial discrimination lawsuit, this time against TCF Bank. “I want to be vindicated,” said Thomas, who feared being arrested that day. “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 confrontational. I did nothing. … It’s frustrating, but I do know God is in control. I will be vindicated because I didn’t do anything wrong.”




So now he can sue the bank and get more money. Fools.
 

sheanu

Well-Known Member
Out of curiosity is there any law in the banking world that prohibits banks from disclosing account balances? It seems very odd to me that they would provide that type of information to someone who isn't the account holder.
From my recollection, client account balances qualify as non-public information that shouldn't be disclosed... not sure how they got around this one. I'm not a teller but work in a financial institution and I vaguely remember this from training. Curious what @MACGlossChick has to say though.
 

Laela

Sidestepping the "lynch mob"
^^ I'm curious as well.. maybe the police report was released to the reporter. How else would the media get this info?
 

Laela

Sidestepping the "lynch mob"
Is what Wenneberger is quoted as saying was already all what he'd told police in the police report and the reporter just confirmed what he says for the story? Either way this release of Thomas' private info only makes his case stronger.. I mean, down to the fitty-two cent in one account.

The bank spokesman made sure he threw sister girl under the bus by pointing out her race.. "Well, it was a black teller who called the PoPo, sooo.. *Kanye shrug*"

The article quoted the bank’s spokesperson Tom Wennerberger. I don’t know how he is allowed to release all of that information.
 

Crackers Phinn

Either A Blessing Or A Lesson.
I was a bank teller 20+ years ago and if somebody tried to cash a $13K check off an account with fifty two U.S. cents in it the best case scenario would be if the checks were drawn on the same bank, then verifying the checks over the phone with an authorized signer. But the standard is to cashed out $200-$500 same day, a two day hold on the next $5K and the rest 7 day hold. What he was doing is a red flag in banking, however after you offer to deposit with a hold you don't call the police, that's crazy. The only time we called the police was if the account it was drawn on was flagged for stolen checks and the check number was in the stolen range. If that happened, we would take the check and the persons id and wait in the back until the police came and then they could explain to them why they had a stolen check.

I was complaining in the Citibank thread that they were putting week long holds on my teensy $200 petty cash checks when my account had more than enough to cover it if it bounced.
 

MACGlossChick

Well-Known Member
From my recollection, client account balances qualify as non-public information that shouldn't be disclosed... not sure how they got around this one. I'm not a teller but work in a financial institution and I vaguely remember this from training. Curious what @MACGlossChick has to say though.
Yes. That goes against the privacy policy. We can't give any info to non customers transacting on customer accounts, and in some cases, customers who don't provide ID.
 

naturalgyrl5199

Well-Known Member
Yes. That goes against the privacy policy. We can't give any info to non customers transacting on customer accounts, and in some cases, customers who don't provide ID.
I bet my lunch money they included that breach of privacy in the suit. Clearly the Bank's manager/or CEO or whomever is VERY new to the lawsuit stuff. It should have been the LAWYER for the bank speaking.
 
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