A woman has filed a federal lawsuit against police and a dealership in Highland Park after she presented a legitimate $30,000 check to purchase a car but was instead wrongfully arrested for fraud.
Sade Crockett, 36, of Chicago, went to the McGrath Kia, 250 Skokie Valley Road in Highland Park, on March 10.
Crockett test-drove a 2021 Chevrolet Blazer and then informed the dealership she wanted to purchase the car, according to a lawsuit.
She presented the dealership with a cashier’s check in the amount of $30,710, a police report said.
An employee of McGrath Kia called 911 and requested that the Highland Park Police Department respond.
The employees believed the check was fraudulent and officers responded and arrested Crockett, the report said.
She was charged in Lake County Circuit Court with forgery by delivery of a document, a Class 3 felony that carries a sentence ranging from probation to up to five years in prison, which can be extended in certain circumstances.
The charge was approved by the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said during an initial court hearing that Crockett told officers she received the check from her uncle, who was buying the car for her.
The fraudulent check was counterfeit or bleached, prosecutors said during the hearing.
The case was later dismissed by the state’s attorney’s office in July, at which time the prosecutor told Crockett’s attorney, “Sorry it took so long,” according to the lawsuit.
The cashier’s check in question was legitimately issued to Crockett by Fifth Third Bank at a branch in Chicago on the same day she attempted to make the car purchase, the suit said.
The car was intended to be a gift from her uncle as a birthday present.
A police report said that employees of the McGrath Kia dealership contacted Fifth Third Bank to verify the legitimacy of Crockett’s cashier’s check.
The bank informed staff that the check was fraudulent. The suit said the bank deviated from its own policy and practice to verify the account holder and to contact the bank branch where the check was drawn.
Crockett explained to responding officers that the check was legitimate and she obtained it earlier that day from Fifth Third Bank. She also told them that the bank issued the check from her uncle’s account.
An officer who contacted Fifth Third Bank was told Crockett was not a customer of the bank and the bank systems were down so they could not validate the legitimacy of the check.
A lawsuit was recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking compensatory and punitive damages in connection with the wrongful arrest.
The suit names defendants WKM Automotive, Inc., which does business as McGrath Kia, along with Fifth Third Bank, the City of Highland Park and the two responding police officers.
Attorney Halil Hampton, who is representing Crockett, said Tuesday the case represents a “disturbing pattern of racial discrimination and what can happen when ‘Banking While Black.'”
“There is no data on how frequently the police are called on customers, who are making legitimate everyday transactions; however, racial profiling in our community needs to stop,” Hampton said.
“Sade Crockett needs justice and she deserves to be treated with both dignity and respect,” Hampton said, adding that his client has suffered extreme emotional distress from the incident.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office said they were not commenting on the matter when contacted Wednesday by Lake and McHenry County Scanner.
A spokesperson for the City of Highland Park said the city would not be commenting on the incident because of the active lawsuit.