‘Banking While Black’ Lawsuit Filed by Ben Crump Against Central Florida Credit Union
Nationally recognized civil rights attorney Ben Crump has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Black Florida woman against her financial institution. The lawsuit was filed in Orange County and accused MidFlorida Credit Union of violating the Black patron’s civil rights.
Retired Polk County teacher Linda Stephens, 70, has banked with MidFlorida Credit Union for over 40 years according to the lawsuit. However, an incident in April 2021 would forever change Stephens' relationship with her longtime bank.
According to the lawsuit, Stephens deposited $600 in cash at the credit union's ATM. The cash deposit was meant to pay her mortgage. The next day, she noticed that the money was still not showing up in her bank account. After contacting the bank, Stephens allegedly was told to come back at least three more times and that it could take up to several days before she could receive her money.
According to bank officials at the time, an ATM engineer had to come out to work on the machine because there was an issue with it. Stephens alleges that a bank worker told her “if you look behind me, you can see the truck of the man here working on the ATM machine.” Stephens was also told that the ATM engineer had $600 in cash. When Stephens demanded that she be given back her money, police officers were dispatched to the branch.
The lawsuit also pushes back against a police report that detailed bank employees told her that her money would be ready within an hour, yet she "yelled that law enforcement would shoot and tase her." Stephens insists however that "Another police officer came in the room with his hand on his gun and said, ‘I thought I heard her say, 'I have a gun and I'm going to shoot you.’”
Stephens was subsequently arrested and left with bruises and a broken nose. A report by officials outlines that force was only used on Stephens after she fought against getting out of the police car. Stephens was eventually carried out of the vehicle and into the police department.
Stephens and her legal team argue that the escalation of events started with the initial discrimination at the bank branch. The lawsuit highlights that after Stephens was released from jail, a bank official offered to pay her mortgage and even presented her with a gift card.
As of now, the police department is not the subject of any legal action, but Crump says they have not yet ruled out whether any legal action could be brought forward in the future.