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Casino jackpot winner alleges Michigan bank wouldn’t cash her prize check because she’s Black

A Black lady from Michigan says she was racially discriminated in opposition to when three staff at a Fifth Third Financial institution informed her a on line casino jackpot examine she was attempting to deposit was fraudulent, in keeping with a just lately filed federal lawsuit.

Lizzie Pugh, 71, tried to deposit the examine April 11 at one of many financial institution’s Livonia branches, in keeping with the swimsuit filed Aug. 29 in U.S. District Court docket in Michigan. The lawsuit mentioned Pugh had a examine in hand from the Hovering Eagle On line casino and Resort in Mount Nice, the place she had hit a slot machine jackpot on April 9 whereas out with a church group.

Lizzie Pugh.Courtesy of Lawyer Deborah Gordon

When she arrived at Fifth Third, the place she didn’t have an account, Pugh was informed by three white feminine staff, her examine was fraudulent whereas making an attempt to open a financial savings account. The staff additionally tried to maintain the examine, in keeping with the swimsuit, which doesn’t identify the workers.

Pugh’s lawyer, Deborah Gordon, informed NBC Information on Wednesday the examine her shopper tried to deposit was for about $12,000 after taxes have been taken out by the on line casino on a $20,000 jackpot.

Pugh, in keeping with the lawsuit, was raised in Alabama in the course of the Jim Crow period and retired from Detroit Public Colleges after 36 years.

“This is only one instance of the continuous hurdles and indignities that Black Individuals face every single day,” Gordon mentioned.

A spokesperson for Fifth Third Financial institution mentioned in an announcement: “At Fifth Third, we’re dedicated to truthful and accountable banking and prohibit discrimination of any sort. Our staff are educated to assist each individual with their banking wants — buyer or non-customer — whereas minimizing the danger of any potential fraud.”

The assertion added: “From our evaluate of the claims, we imagine our staff’ actions have been misinterpreted. That mentioned, we remorse Ms. Pugh has come away feeling mistreated after her interactions at our department, as our staff’ actions have been in line with our course of and the twin targets of serving our prospects whereas additionally stopping potential frauds that may victimize each the financial institution and our prospects.”

On the Livonia Fifth Third department, Pugh, who is generally mild-mannered, refused to again down, particularly when the financial institution tried to maintain her examine, Gordon mentioned. The matter ended when Pugh threatened to name police, in keeping with the lawyer. Pugh ended up depositing the examine at one other company financial institution, Gordon mentioned.

“She was made to really feel humiliated the way in which they handled her from the time she walked within the door after they informed her, her examine was fraudulent. After which they took her examine,” Gordon mentioned. “That’s when Lizzie Pugh drew the road. She bought out her cellphone and mentioned, ‘I’m calling the police.’ They anticipated her to go away the financial institution with out that examine.”

In accordance with the swimsuit, the examine Pugh offered Fifth Third staff contained a memo line studying: “SLOT JACKPOT.” It additionally listed Pugh’s identify and her house tackle, which matched the tackle on her driver’s license, in keeping with the swimsuit.

Pugh couldn’t be reached for remark Wednesday afternoon, however she spoke to the Detroit Free Press.

“I couldn’t actually imagine they did that to me. I used to be devastated. I stored asking, ‘How are you aware the examine isn’t actual?’ … They usually simply insisted that it was fraudulent … I used to be simply terrified,” she informed the newspaper.

Pugh additionally mentioned it was extremely offensive and illogical to accuse her of fraud.

“To suppose that perhaps they’d have police coming and working at me — it was humiliating and demanding,” in keeping with the Free Press. “For somebody to only accuse you of stealing? I’m 71 years outdated. Why would I steal a examine and attempt to money it? I simply didn’t suppose anyone would try this.”

Helen Kwong contributed.

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