Sauntore Thomas has filed a lawsuit against TCF Bank, alleging employees refused to cash his settlement check awarded in a racial discrimination suit.
According to the lawsuit, the employees believed the check was fraudulent, causing an investigation to be launched.
“I didn’t deserve treatment like that when I knew that the check was not fraudulent,” Thomas said. “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 said he called his employment law attorney while at the bank to tell the employees that the check was authentic.
“I got on the phone with the bank,” attorney Deborah Gordon said. “I sent them my federal court complaint, to see that it matched. I did everything.”
Gordon believes the employees refused to cash Thomas’ check because of his race.
“Obviously, assumptions were made the minute he walked in based on his race,” she added. “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.”
Thomas was not arrested during his visit to TCF Bank even though the computer system reportedly read the check as fraudulent.
Lora Claypool of the Livonia Police Department’s Detective Bureau explained the bank’s concerns in an email she sent to Gordon.
“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.”
The check cleared 12 hours after Thomas opened a new account at a Chase bank in Detroit.
“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.”
“We apologize for the experience Mr. Thomas had at our banking center,” TCF Bank spokesman Tom Wennerberg told The Post 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.”
The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages.