The 71-year-old plaintiff said that employees from a Fifth Third Bank in Livonia tried to take her $12,000 slot machine jackpot, claiming the check was “fraudulent.”
A Black woman from Michigan has filed a lawsuit against a Detroit-area bank, claiming that she was discriminated against when employees refused to cash her casino jackpot check.
According to NBC News, plaintiff Lizzie Pugh, 71, tried to deposit her winnings at a Livonia branch of Fifth Third Bank.
Pugh, says NBC News, had won a slot machine jackpot from the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant.
However, when Pugh arrived to Fifth Third Bank, three White employees told her that the check was fraudulent and that she would not be allowed to open a savings account to deposit the winnings.
The employees, claims that lawsuit, also tried to confiscate and keep the check.
Attorneys for Pugh say that their client’s check was written for $12,000, after Soaring Eagle had deducted taxes from the 71-year-old’s $20,000 jackpot.
“This is just one example of the continual hurdles and indignities that Black Americans face every day,” attorney Deborah Gordon said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Fifth Third Bank suggested that Pugh may have misinterpreted the bank employees’ actions.
“At Fifth Third, we are committed to fair and responsible banking and prohibit discrimination of any kind. Our employees are trained to help every person with their banking needs — customer or non-customer — while minimizing the risk of any potential fraud,” Fifth Third said.
“From our review of the claims, we believe our employees’ actions have been misinterpreted. That said, we regret Ms. Pugh has come away feeling mistreated after her interactions at our branch, as our employees’ actions were consistent with our process and the dual goals of serving our customers while also preventing potential frauds that can victimize both the bank and our customers,” the bank added.
However, Gordon said that Pugh was forced to defend herself and her winnings; the bank employees only returned Pugh’s check when she threatened to call the police.
“She was made to feel humiliated the way they treated her from the time she walked in the door when they told her her check was fraudulent. And then they took her check,” Gordon told NBC News. “That’s when Lizzie Pugh drew the line. She got out her phone and said, ‘I’m calling the police.’ They expected her to leave the bank without that check.”
Pugh said that, when pressed to explain why the bank employees thought the check was fraudulent, she was not given any clear-cut answer.
“To think that maybe they would have police coming and running at me — it was humiliating and stressful,” Pugh told The Detroit Free Press. “For someone to just accuse you of stealing? I’m 71 years old. Why would I steal a check and try to cash it? I just didn’t think anybody would do that.”