Man says bank discriminated when it refused to cash discrimination settlement checks

DETROIT -- A man is suing a Michigan bank for racial discrimination after he says the staff refused to deposit settlement checks from another racial discrimination case and called police on him.

"Something else was afoot here," the man's attorney, Deborah Gordon, told CNN affiliate WXYZ. "And in my opinion, there's only one thing: banking while black"

Sauntore Thomas, a 44-year-old African-American man, went to a TCF Bank branch Tuesday to open a savings account and deposit checks from the settlement in a recent racial discrimination case against his former employer, his complaint says. He already had a checking account at the bank.

A bank employee "immediately appeared suspicious," the complaint said.

"How did you get this money?" the employee asked, according to the complaint.

She refused to deposit the checks into Thomas' account and called the police to report that Thomas was attempting to deposit fraudulent checks, the complaint said.

"Ten minutes later, Livonia Police walk in. And they said 'Hey sir can we talk to you?' And I was shocked, I was like 'who, me?'" Thomas told WXYZ.

Four police officers arrived at the bank and questioned Thomas, and his attorney over the phone, about the checks.

TCF Bank filed a police report for check fraud against Thomas, the complaint said.

He left that bank and went to another, where he successfully deposited his checks and where they cleared the next morning, the complaint said.

"We apologize for the experience Mr. Thomas had at our banking center," TCF Bank said in a statement to CNN. "Local police should not have been involved. We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind. 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."