Where’s the Money? Local bank closes homeless man’s account

John Leeman, 62, opened a savings account at SunTrust Bank (now Truist) in 2020 in Fort Myers so he could deposit two government checks: a tax refund check and a stimulus check, totaling nearly $2,000. When he tried to make a withdrawal soon after, Leeman says the bank told him the checks weren’t good and the account was closed.

“I go back a couple of days later, and I asked for money, because I need some money to live, and they said the checks are no good. So I’m like, why is it no good since it comes from the government? So I went back and I just ask them why and they’re not telling me no reasons,” says Leeman. “This bank right here… they don’t care. I don’t think they worry about me at all, being a homeless person. And I told the woman, ‘Ma’am, I’m homeless. I need this money.'”

With no car, no computer and unreliable internet access, he couldn’t solve this mystery on his own. He asked a friend to help him write this letter to his local congressman, but nothing changed for nearly a year.

That’s when he mailed a letter to WINK News:

“I’m just trying to get back what’s mine,” says Leeman. “I don’t ask for a penny more or a penny less. All this time, I’m sitting here and I can’t get my money? I mean, that’s wrong from the bank. They don’t get me the right answer… what I want to understand, what it is.”

Leeman says he was relying on that money to buy an old RV, so he could leave his homeless camp and put a roof over his head.

“… and instead of staying in the woods over here, I could live in an RV in a campground and go to work every day. But in the meantime, without no money, I’m living over here in the woods,” says Leeman.

I went to the bank to talk to the manager. She wouldn’t comment. I reached out to Truist’s corporate headquarters. In an email, the Director of Media Relations Kyle Tarrance wrote, “let us look into this and circle back.” The next day, Truist circled back to Leeman to tell him he could pick up his money.

“I got a phone call last night from the bank here saying be here at nine o’clock and get your money.” says Leeman. “I’m like, ‘oh that’s nice.’ I said, ‘Why did you take so long to get it?’ She wouldn’t tell me, but I’ll be here at nine o’clock for sure.”

Celine: “How do you feel about that?”

Leeman: “I feel good. It took WINK news to go do it.”

I went with him to the bank, so we could find out what went wrong for so long. They wouldn’t tell either of us where the money was all this time, and why he was now getting it back.

“She won’t tell me why, because she don’t know herself. You know, they do know, but they’re not saying anyway,” says Leeman.

Leeman is just relieved to finally have this cash in hand and is ready to move on.

I followed up with Truist again and they emailed us this statement:

“It is our understanding that you’re now aware of the resolution, but I did want to circle back with you. As I’m sure you’re aware, we can’t discuss or confirm banking relationships to protect the privacy of our clients, but as with all potential client issues, we escalated this matter to the appropriate teams to research and help find a resolution. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.” – Kyle Tarrance, Truist Director of Media Relations

In the meantime, if you have something you want me to investigate, email me at [email protected] or [email protected].

Reporter:Céline McArthur
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