"Well, we filed a lawsuit. … That happened yesterday. My legal team advised me: 'We need to step on this immediately, and we're not going to wait. You want to be able to do it now, because people need to know exactly what happened in this case.'"
"It goes to show you that TCF had an ulterior motive. They did not want to assist me, because I was African American. They didn't want to assist me, because they assumed that I had a fraudulent check, which was far from the truth. I want to be vindicated. I want to make sure people understand and know that they treat customers this way. And this was no mistake. This was not just: 'Well, we made an error. I'm sorry.' I didn't get an 'I'm sorry.' I didn't get no cup of coffee, and I didn't get no doughnuts. The only thing I got from them was a hard time."
A black Air Force veteran who tried to deposit settlement checks from a discrimination lawsuit was rejected by his suburban Detroit bank, which suspected fraud and called police.
After settling a lawsuit with his former employer, Sauntore (sahn-TOR'-ee) Thomas now is suing TCF Bank, alleging racial discrimination.
"It goes to show you that TCF had an ulterior motive. They did not want to assist me, because I was African American," Thomas said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday at his attorney's offices in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
A TCF spokesman denied racial discrimination and said Thomas had a 52-cent balance in his account and was making a "highly unusual request" Tuesday with three checks that totaled $99,000.
TCF said Thomas wanted to deposit two checks but immediately cash a third check for $13,000. TCF told the Detroit Free Press that the checks displayed a watermark that read "VOID" when they were scanned.
According to the bank, an assistant manager at the TCF branch, who is black, called Livonia police because something didn't "look right." Four officers arrived, though police took no action against Thomas.
Thomas' lawyer, Deborah Gordon, provided documents to show that her client had been involved in a lawsuit. But she said it didn't allay TCF's concerns.
"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," said Gordon, a prominent Detroit-area labor law attorney. "So, obviously, they didn't believe my client."
TCF said in a statement Thursday: "We apologize for the experience Mr. Thomas had at our banker center. Local police should not have been involved."
"We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind," the bank said.
Thomas closed his TCF account and took the checks to a Chase Bank, where he said they cleared in his new account in 12 hours.
He said he felt intimidated when police arrived.
"I just sat there. I didn't get excited. I didn't get loud. I didn't create a scene in the middle of the lobby," said Thomas, who is 44. "I didn't start cussing and hollering. I didn't say anything. I was very composed, even though it was a very stressful situation to be in, especially in today's racial times.
"With being African American, sometimes you don't have to do nothing to be in trouble. And that's what I felt like."
Discrimination , Human rights and civil liberties , Social issues , Social affairs , Racial and ethnic discrimination , Race and ethnicity , Racial and ethnic discrimination , Fraud and false statements , Crime , General news , Lawsuits , Legal proceedings , Law and order
Michigan , United States , North America , Detroit