70-year-old Florida woman sues MidFlorida Credit Union for racial discrimination

Attorney Ben Crump is handling the lawsuit

ORLANDO, Fla. – A 70-year-old retired teacher is suing her credit union claiming racial discrimination, and negligence, after she was not allowed access to her money and was later arrested inside the bank.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump was in Orlando on Thursday to announce the lawsuit on behalf of Linda Stephens.

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“Mrs. Stephens is a Black grandmother who was a victim of banking while Black,” Crump said during the news conference.

In April of 2021, Stephens says she deposited $600 into the ATM at Mid-Florida Credit Union in Bartow, Florida. The next morning she says she checked her account and the money had not posted.

The retired teacher and assistant principal for Polk County Schools says she immediately went to the bank with her receipt.

Stephens was told the ATM was broken and to wait a couple of hours, according to the lawsuit.

“I waited all day checking my account online and there was nothing that indicated they had credited my money to my account,” Stephens said.

The next day Stephens went back to the bank demanding her money because she needed to pay her mortgage, she said.

According to the arrest report, Stephens caused a disturbance. Stephens says she just asked for access to her money.

Credit Union employees called police, who ended up arresting her and taking her to jail, according to the lawsuit.

Stephens spent the night in jail and the state attorney’s office ended up not filing criminal charges.

Stephens’ case mirrors others around the country, according to Crump.

“Every time one these cases, it turns out they [banks] 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 Mrs. Linda Stephens would have had the police called on her if she were a white woman,” Crump said.

While in custody Stephens was “thrown face first into a police car.” Her “nose was fractured” and she was “stripped naked and transported to the jail annex,” according to the lawsuit.

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

News 6 asked Crump why they have not filed a lawsuit against the Polk County jail or the officers who allegedly roughed Stephens up.

“We’re not saying we won’t,” Crump said. “But this all falls on Mid-Florida Credit Union.  If they had not called the police and had treated Mrs. Stephens as a valued customer, none of this would have happened.”

News 6 reached out to MidFlorida Credit Union regarding the suit. We are waiting to hear back.

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About the Authors:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.