A RETIREE should have been celebrating when she won more than $12,000 on a slot machine last year.
Instead, Lizzie Pugh, 71, claimed she was racially discriminated against when three bank employees told her that the casino jackpot check she was trying to deposit was fraudulent, according to her lawsuit.
Pugh went to the Fifth Third Bank in Livonia, Michigan on April 11, 2022, to open a savings account and deposit her winnings when three white employees stopped her.
She gave the employees the check, telling them it was valid, and gave them a copy of her license.
The check had Pugh’s name and the same residential address that is on her ID, along with the address of the Soaring Eagle Casino where she won the jackpot.
The former Detroit public school worker claimed she was forced to confront the employees who allegedly refused to give her the check back at first.
“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.”
In response, Fifth Third Bank, N.A. and Fifth Third Financial Corporation denied Pugh’s allegations, including that their employees deemed the check to be “fraudulent.”
“We are committed to fair and responsible banking and prohibit discrimination of any kind. From our review of the claims, we believe the facts to be different than what is alleged,” read the statement at the time.
“Our employees are trained to help every customer with their banking needs, and our employees follow procedures to facilitate the opening of any new account.”
Pugh’s attorney, Deborah Gordon said in a statement that what happened to her client “is yet another example of the hurdles and indignities facing Black Americans as they try to get through the day. It is not only young Black men who are profiled.
“Fortunately, Michigan has a strong statute prohibiting discrimination in ‘public accommodations,’ including banks.”
Pugh was able to cash the check at another bank.
“I had this check, and I didn’t want it on me now,” she told CNN. “I was so upset; I just took a picture of the bank on my way out because I didn’t know the address.”
Yolanda McGee, Pugh’s niece, said her aunt was afraid of going into banks or any type of business after the alleged incident.
“She had some events in her life from living back in Alabama as a young girl where she’s been discriminated against, and you know it’s heavy on her heart.”
McGee added that she had to convince her aunt to file the lawsuit because Plugh was apparently too scared to do anything.
“From our review of the claims, we believe our employees’ actions have been misinterpreted,” said Fifth Third Bank in a statement.
“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.”