*A casino jackpot winner has sued Fifth Third Bank for racially discriminating against her when she went to deposit her casino jackpot check. That winner is 71-yr-old Lizzie Pugh from Michigan.
On April 11, Pugh visited one of the bank’s Livonia, MI branches, with the check from the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant, MI where she had won the jackpot two days earlier, while out with a church group.
According to the lawsuit, when the happy Black woman arrived at Fifth Third, she was taken aback when three white female employees told her her check was fraudulent. Lizzie did not have an account with the bank and was attempting to open a savings account. Furthermore, the bank employees tried to withhold her check. However, the lawsuit doesn’t name the employees.
When they tried to keep her check, Lizzie who is by nature restrained, decided not to let them intimidate her; she threatened to call the police and that’s when they backed down.
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Once she got back her check, she went out and deposited it at another corporate bank.
Lizzie’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, maintains her client had a genuine check for about $12,000 after tax deductions, from the $20,000 jackpot she had won.
“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 said, speaking to NBC News on Wednesday. “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.”
Attorney Gordon added that this is just one example of the continual hurdles and indignities that Black Americans face every day. The lawsuit further states that Pugh grew up in Alabama in the days of Jim Crow. She worked for Detroit Public Schools for 36 years before retiring.
But a Fifth Third Bank spokesperson had a different take on the incident.
“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,” said the spokesperson. “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.”
Lizzie is still unable to come to terms with what happened.
“I couldn’t really believe they did that to me. 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,” she told the Detroit Free Press.
What seems to hurt her the most is being accused of fraud.
“To think that maybe they would have police coming and running at me — it was humiliating and stressful,” she laments. “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.”
Pugh also said it was highly offensive and illogical to accuse her of fraud.
“To think that maybe they would have police coming and running at me — it was humiliating and stressful,” according to the 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.”