The Slatest

Detroit Bank Calls Police on Black Man Depositing Payout From a Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

A headshot of Sauntore Thomas.
Sauntore Thomas
Law firm of Deborah Gordon, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

A black man in Detroit who won a racial discrimination suit against his former employer ended up filing yet another racial discrimination suit this week after his bank refused to deposit the checks from his lawsuit and instead called the police on him, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The man, Sauntore Thomas, 44, walked into TCF Bank in a Detroit suburb on Tuesday to open a savings account, deposit three checks, and withdraw cash. According to the filing, the assistant branch manager, a black woman, appeared immediately suspicious of Thomas. She told him that they would have to verify the checks and asked Thomas how he got the money. When he told her, she walked off to “call in” the checks. When she returned, she said the person they needed to verify the check wasn’t there, and Thomas promised to wait until that person arrived.

Minutes later, two police officers arrived at the bank, while another two lingered outside. One told Thomas that the bank had called to report a “problem” with his checks. The officer also asked Thomas how he had gotten the money.

Thomas’ lawyer spoke with the officers and the assistant bank manager, and she said she even sent them legal records to prove the settlement was real. But the bank still refused to deposit the checks. According to the lawsuit, the bank then filed a police report against Thomas for trying to deposit fraudulent checks.

Thomas was not arrested. He instead closed his account at the bank, opened a new one at another bank, and deposited the checks there with no difficulty. But he said in his lawsuit that the experience was humiliating, and he questioned the need to involve police. Thomas’ lawyer also criticized TCF for not calling the bank that issued the checks to confirm their authenticity.

The bank has said that the manager’s actions had nothing to do with race and that Thomas’ checks had watermarks invalidating the checks when they were scanned. Thomas dismissed TCF’s argument, noting that the checks were cleared quickly at the second bank. On Thursday, TCF apologized to Thomas for the police involvement, but it maintained that the precautions had been routine for large checks.

The original lawsuit against his former employer, Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit, was settled confidentially. It’s not known what the allegations or the terms of that settlement were. According to the Free Press, Thomas used the settlement money to buy a car, as he had been walking to work.