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‘All Because I Wanted My Money’: Retired Florida Teacher Demanded Credit Union to Put Money She Deposited Into Her Account and Ended Up Naked In Jail with a Broken Nose

A 70-year-old Black woman alleges she was accused of having a gun, arrested, left inside a hot patrol car and jailed after she confronted a Florida credit union about money missing from her account.

Retired teacher Linda Stephens was a customer of the MidFlorida Credit Union for the past 50 years, when she deposited $600 in the ATM in Bartow, Florida, on April 13, 2021. Stephens needed the money to pay her mortgage, according to a lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star. She received a receipt and returned home, but when noticed the funds weren’t reflected in her balance in the morning, Stephens went to back to the branch for assistance.

However, the woman and her attorneys allege she was met with “hostility and disdain” because of her race. The lawsuit filed on Feb. 3. accuses MidFlorida of “blatant discrimination” and “flagrant indifference.”

Linda Stephens Ben Crump
Linda Stephens and attorney Benjamin Crump. (Photo: @AttorneyCrump / Twitter)

“They discriminated against, neglected, and caused emotional distress to Stephens when they called the police on her after she expressed concern about a deposit for her mortgage not appearing in her account due to an error on the bank’s end,” said attorney Benjamin Crump during a Feb. 3 press conference.

A credit union employee told the retiree that he did not see her deposit and said the ATM was being worked on due to mechanical issues by a technician. The teller told Stephens to return in several hours and fill out a dispute form to resolve the discrepancy with her deposit.

Stephens did as she was instructed and returned to the MidFlorida branch where she was told by another employee that the deposit had still not been posted. The employee accepted the dispute form and reassured her the funds would appear in her account within two to three hours. After waiting the rest of the day and the following morning, Stephens went back to the bank on April 14 after the funds did not show up in her account.

When she arrived, the tellers told Stephens they were unable to help her or tell her the status of her deposit, and she was shown to an office. In the office, Stephens explained to another employee what had transpired previously, the lawsuit alleges.

The employee called the ATM maintenance technician who had serviced the machine. The technician confirmed that he had found the missing $600. Stephens was “distraught” by then and vocally showed her concern about the $600, noting that she needed it to pay her mortgage, the lawsuit says. The branch manager came into the office and demanded that Stephens calm down as she pleaded with the employees for access to her funds. Instead, the branch manager called the police.

A police officer arrived on the scene and stood behind Stephens before another officer arrived with his hand on his firearm stating somebody called 911 and claimed Stephens had a gun. According to the lawsuit, Stephens was afraid for her life by this time and told the police officers that she just wanted access to her ATM deposit. She also told them she did not have a gun, but the officer placed her in handcuffs and left her inside his vehicle in 90-degree heat for 20 minutes.

Once at the police station, Stephens, who had never before been arrested before, was dragged out of the police vehicle and thrown down on the ground and placed in a holding cell. She was later handcuffed, dragged across the floor by four male police officers, thrown face-first into a police vehicle and transported to the Sheriff’s department. Her nose was broken in the process.

At the Sherriff’s department, Stephens was stripped nude before being transported to the jail annex where she spent 24 hours completely naked on a cement floor of a jail cell before being released, the lawsuit alleges. She had been charged with disorderly conduct, a charge prosecutors subsequently dropped.

According to Stephens’ claim, on April 16, 2021, a MidFlorida regional manager contacted Stephens to apologize. She met Stephens at her home and apologized while noting the bank’s mistake and the subsequent trauma suffered by Stephens. The manager also gave Stephens a voucher for her mortgage payment — for $300, not $600.

“I was just traumatized,” said Stephens. “I was humiliated. I was dehumanized. All because I wanted my money.”

Stephens has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is undergoing psychiatric therapy due to the emotional trauma she went through, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states, “By denying her service and calling the police on her, MidFlorida intentionally deprived Ms. Stephens of the same rights as are enjoyed by white citizens to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodates of a place of public accommodation, namely the MidFlorida Credit Union branch.”

The lawsuit demands a judgment against MidFlorida Credit Union for compensatory, economic, and noneconomic damages in “whatever amount Plaintiff is found to be entitled” as well as exemplary damages “based on oppression and malice, according to Defendant’s
net worth” and monetary awards to cover interest, court costs and attorney’s fees.

“Every time, on these cases, it turns out, they say, ‘We were wrong. We apologize to the Black customer.’ That’s why we believe that banking while Black is real and we don’t believe Ms. Linda Stephens would of have had the police called on her if she were a white woman,” said Crump.

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