A Detroit man is suing a bank for calling the police when he went to deposit settlement checks from a race discrimination lawsuit.
Sauntore Thomas, 44, alleges TCF Bank accused him of check fraud because the bank couldn't verify checks he tried to deposit as part of his lawsuit settlement.
Thomas, who is Black, received an undisclosed amount from Enterprise Rent a Car to settle a May 2018 lawsuit.
He filed a lawsuit on Wednesday after what he calls a "hellish experience" being questioned by police in front of bank customers - while two more Detroit police officers guarded the door outside, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Thomas is seeking unspecified damages and an apology from TCF Bank. The bank claims it was only following protocol when there is a large deposit made.
The bank filed a police report alleging Thomas committed bank fraud. TCF Bank claims the watermark on the checks indicated the checks were fraudulent.
Thomas wasn't arrested and no charges were filed, the NY Daily News reported.
A spokesperson from the Livonia Police Department told the Free Press that the checks could not be verified because they weren't payroll checks.
An emailed copy of the settled lawsuit from Thomas' attorney, Deborah Gordon, didn't resolve the dispute, nor did conversations with Gordon, the cops and bank personnel.
"Obviously, assumptions were made the minute he walked in based on his race," attorney Gordon told the Free Press.
"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."
Gordon, who is Caucasian, said "banking while Black" should not have been viewed as a crime.
"This is just another classic example of what it's like living your life as a Black male," she told BuzzFeed News. "The checks are for real. Why was there an issue? Why could you not verify them? You're a bank, after all - it's your job to verify checks."
The bank issued a swift apology for the experience Thomas had at their banking center. "Local police should not have been involved. We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind," TCF Bank said in a statement to the Free Press.
"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 closed his account at TCF Bank and deposited the checks at another bank - where they cleared in 12 hours.
"I want to be vindicated," Thomas told the Free Press. He said he feared being arrested that day because he knows what happens to men with dark skin who don't toe the line.
"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," he said.
"I didn't give them any type of indication that I was getting upset. I wanted to make sure I stayed as levelheaded as possible, because I wasn't going to be the next person on the ground saying, 'I can't breathe.'"