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Casino jackpot winner alleges Michigan bank wouldnt cash her prize check because shes Black

A Black woman from Michigan says she was racially discriminated against when three employees at a Fifth Third Bank informed her a casino jackpot check she was attempting to deposit was fraudulent, in accordance with a recently filed federal lawsuit.

Lizzie Pugh, 71, tried to deposit the check April 11 at among the bank’s Livonia branches, based on the suit filed Aug. 29 in U.S. District Court in Michigan. The lawsuit said Pugh had a sign in hand from the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant, where she had hit a slot machine game jackpot on April 9 while out with a church group.

Lizzie Pugh.
Lizzie Pugh.Thanks to Attorney Deborah Gordon

When she attained Fifth Third, where she didn’t have a merchant account, Pugh was told by three white female employees, her check was fraudulent while wanting to open a checking account. The employees also tried to help keep the check, based on the suit, which will not name the employees.

Pughs attorney, Deborah Gordon, told NBC News on Wednesday the check her client tried to deposit was for approximately $12,000 after taxes were applied for by the casino on a $20,000 jackpot.

Pugh, based on the lawsuit, grew up in Alabama through the Jim Crow era and retired from Detroit Public Schools after 36 years.

That is just one exemplory case of the continual hurdles and indignities that Black Americans face each day, Gordon said.

A spokesperson for Fifth Third Bank said in a statement: At Fifth Third, we have been focused on fair and responsible banking and prohibit discrimination of any sort. Our employees are trained to greatly help every person making use of their banking needs customer or non-customer while minimizing the chance of any potential fraud.

The statement added: From our overview of the claims, we believe our employees actions have already been misinterpreted. Having said that, we regret Ms. Pugh has come away feeling mistreated after her interactions at our branch, as our employees actions were in keeping with our process and the dual goals of serving our customers while also preventing potential frauds that may victimize both bank and our customers.

At the Livonia Fifth Third branch, Pugh, who’s normally mild-mannered, refused to back off, especially when the lender tried to help keep her check, Gordon said. The problem ended when Pugh threatened to call police, based on the attorney. Pugh finished up depositing the check at another corporate bank, Gordon said.

She was designed to feel humiliated the direction they treated her from enough time she walked in the entranceway when they informed her, her check was fraudulent. And they took her check, Gordon said. Thats when Lizzie Pugh drew the line. She got out her phone and said, Im calling the authorities. They expected her to leave the lender without that check.

Based on the suit, the check Pugh provided Fifth Third employees contained a memo line reading: SLOT JACKPOT. In addition, it listed Pughs name and her home address, which matched the address on her behalf drivers license, based on the suit.

Pugh cannot be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, but she spoke to the Detroit Free Press.

I couldnt really believe they did that if you ask me. I was devastated. I kept asking, How will you know the check isn’t real? … Plus they just insisted that it had been fraudulent … I was just terrified, she told the newspaper.

Pugh also said it had been highly offensive and illogical to accuse her of fraud.

To believe that maybe they might have police coming and running at me it had been humiliating and stressful, based on the Free Press. For you to definitely just accuse you of stealing? Im 71 yrs . old. Why would I steal a check and make an effort to cash it? I simply didnt think anybody would do this.

Antonio Planas

Antonio Planas is really a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

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