Bank Wants Casino Jackpot Winner’s Race Discrimination Suit Tossed

A Black woman from Detroit says she was told by the Fifth Third Bank that she could not deposit a $12,200 check for casino winnings because it was “fraudulent.” Now, she’s suing the bank for racial discrimination. But Fifth Third wants the case dismissed because it claims it was all a misunderstanding.

Lizzie Pugh, above, won just over $12,200 at the Soaring Eagle casino in April, but the bank refused to deposit her check, according to a racial discrimination lawsuit. (Image: Unheard Voices Magazine)

Lizzie Pugh, 71, hit the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant on April 9 as part of a church outing, according to her lawsuit.

While there, the retired schools worker won the jackpot on a slot machine. She chose to pay taxes on her winnings at the casino. Staff cut her a check and gave her a small amount of cash.

On April 11, she visited a Fifth Third branch in Livonia, Metro Detroit, to open an account to deposit the check. But she claims she was told by three different staff members that it was fake. The bank’s employees refused to let her open an account and would not give her the check back.

Check Your Privilege

“I couldn’t really believe they did that to me,” Pugh told The Detroit Free Press. “I was devastated. I kept asking, ‘How do you know the check is not real?’ … And they just insisted that it was fraudulent … I was just terrified.”

The check was eventually returned to Pugh after she threatened to call the police. She sued the bank under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits race discrimination in public places. Her lawsuit is asking for an unspecified amount of damages from Fifth Third.

But in a motion to dismiss the suit Wednesday, Fifth Third’s lawyers denied all the allegations. They claim the branch was merely attempting to verify the check with the casino as part of its anti-fraud protocols. They cite records of a phone call from the bank to the casino on the afternoon in question.

“From our review of the claims, we believe our employees’ actions were well-intentioned and have been misinterpreted,” Fifth Third spokesman Ed Lloyd said Wednesday.

‘Bunch of Bull****’

But Pugh’s lawyer, Deborah Gordon, told the DFP that was “a bunch of bull****.” She claims her client was treated badly by the bank because she is Black.

They refused the transaction with her and she had to leave and go elsewhere,” Gordon said. “Why couldn’t they open an account for her? Obviously, they assumed fraud, and they didn’t want to do business with her.

“Why do you tell someone there is a fraudulent check? If I walked in there, I highly doubt they’d tell me that it’s fraudulent,” added Gordon, who is white.

Gordon said that once Pugh had finally got her check back, she took it down the street to Chase, where it was accepted straight away.

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