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'Banking while black': Woman sues Wells Fargo alleging teller refused to cash her check

Wells Fargo said Tuesday that an internal error cost hundreds more people their homes than the bank initially thought. Approximately 870 customers were incorrectly denied or not offered loan modifications or repayment plans that would have made their mortgages more affordable. As a result, about 545 of those customers lost their homes to foreclosure. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Wells Fargo said Tuesday that an internal error cost hundreds more people their homes than the bank initially thought. Approximately 870 customers were incorrectly denied or not offered loan modifications or repayment plans that would have made their mortgages more affordable. As a result, about 545 of those customers lost their homes to foreclosure. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

All Satara Monroe wanted to do was cash her paycheck, make a stop at the grocery store and go home. But she said her plans were ruined when a bank teller at a Pompano Beach Wells Fargo accused her of committing fraud.

The quick errand back in 2015 turned into an hourlong interrogation by police, according to a lawsuit filed Nov. 5 in federal court in South Florida.

Michelle Palomino, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, said in a statement, “Wells Fargo opposes discrimination of any kind, and strongly denies Ms. Monroe’s allegations.”

Monroe, 40, who is black, said she turned to a lawyer after seeing similar stories of black people being discriminated against while banking with Wells Fargo.

According to Yechezkel Rodal, her attorney, Monroe — who works for a marketing firm — went to a Pompano Beach branch to cash her check and presented two forms of ID because she is not a customer.

She also left her fingerprint on the check, a standard practice for non-customers. The check was drawn on a Wells Fargo account.

According to the suit, the teller, a white woman, told Monroe that she called the owner of the firm — the person on the check — to verify, and told Monroe the owner said the check was fraudulent.

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Monroe called her boss, and he said he never received a phone call from Wells Fargo. He even spoke to the teller on the phone, at Monroe’s behest, but Monroe was still escorted to a room by the branch manager. In the room, at least four Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies confronted her, Monroe said.

The bank eventually cleared Monroe and she cashed her check.

Wells Fargo has been accused of similar actions by other minorities.

In 2017, Barbara Carroll, 78, filed suit after she said she was accused of forgery at a Fort Lauderdale branch, according to the Washington Post.

Carroll, who is black, tried to cash a $140 check, but instead was interrogated, the paper reported. That case ended in an “amicable solution,” said Rodal, who also represented Carroll.

Also in 2017, Jean Romane Elie tried to withdraw money for rent from a branch in West Palm Beach and instead was detained by sheriff’s deputies, according to the New Times. He sued.

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