Lizzie Pugh told CNN she won more than $12,000 on a slot machine at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, during a church outing earlier this year.
On April 11, 2022, Pugh went to Fifth Third Bank in Livonia, Michigan to open a savings account and deposit her winnings into a newly created account, according to court documents. Pugh’s complaint alleges that three Fifth Third Bank White Bank employees told him the check was “fraudulent.”
The 71-year-old Detroit Public School retiree says she was then forced to confront bank clerks who initially refused to return her check.
According to the complaint, Pugh asked bank employees to call 911 because she was not leaving without her check. Pugh then spoke to a third bank clerk who also said the check was fraudulent and because of this the refund would not allow Pugh to open an account and deposit the check. Eventually, bank employees returned Pugh’s check.
Fifth Third Bank, NA and Fifth Third Financial Corporation filed a response this week denying the allegations, including that their employee decided the check was “fraudulent.” They also dispute that events occurred that would warrant damages or other relief, according to the court filing.
“We are committed to fair and responsible banking and prohibit any form of discrimination. Based on our review of complaints, we believe that the facts are different from what is alleged. Our employees are trained to assist each customer with their banking needs, and our employees follow procedures to facilitate the opening of any new account,” a Fifth Third Bank spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.
In a statement to CNN, Pugh’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, said, “What happened to Ms. Pugh is yet another example of the obstacles and indignities that black Americans face as they attempt to get through the day. It’s not just young black men being profiled Fortunately, Michigan has a strict law prohibiting discrimination in “public accommodations,” including banks.
Pugh says she was able to cash it in at another bank.
“I had that check, and I didn’t want it on me now,” Pugh 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,” she added.
Pugh’s niece, Yolanda McGee, told CNN, “She’s scared to go to any bank or any type of business. She’s had events in her life living in Alabama as a that young girl where she was discriminated against, and you know it’s heavy on her heart.” McGee says she first had to convince her aunt to take legal action because her aunt was terrified of doing anything.
In its statement, Fifth Third Bank said it stands with its employees: “Based on our review of the complaints, we believe that the actions of our employees have been misinterpreted. That said, we regret that Ms. Pugh left feeling mistreated after her interactions at our branch, as our employees’ actions were consistent with our process and the dual purpose of serving our customers while preventing potential fraud that can victimize both the bank and our customers.”