BankUnited Discriminates Against Gun Dealers, Local Store Owners Claim
T.R. Liberti is not the type of man to mince words. His full name -- Theodore Roosevelt Liberti -- "sounds like a black football player," he jokes. His Costa Rican wife, Elizabeth, "is not like an immigrant. She comes from a wealthy family and is well educated." As for his line of work -- the New Jersey native has spent 47 years in firearms sales and instruction -- Liberti says guns are "fun."
"Some people bowl," he says. "Other people get together and shoot."
So it's no surprise the irascible 70-year-old couches the couple's feud with BankUnited in simple terms: "They are a bunch of chickenshits."
The Libertis' battle with BankUnited began last month. For seven years, they say, they had no problem with the Miami Lakes-based bank. T.R. had run a gun store in the Garden State, and when he opened Top-Gun Firearms on Calle Ocho, BankUnited operated the account.
But when T.R. decided to retire and let Elizabeth take the store online -- under the new name Discount Ammo-N-Guns -- the Libertis found themselves suddenly under fire.
A March 12 letter mysteriously informed them that BankUnited was closing their checking account "pursuant to the terms and conditions listed in our Depositor's Agreement." It gave the Libertis three days to transfer their cash elsewhere. When the Libertis called BankUnited for an explanation, they were politely informed that none would be forthcoming.
"I was very angry," Elizabeth says. "They were very inconsiderate. We had all our credit cards going through that bank. All of a sudden, we had to run and find another bank to keep our business going. We shut down for two weeks, and they wouldn't even tell us why."
After a day of dialing different BankUnited divisions and directors, the Libertis finally found out.
"This letter in no way reflects any derogatory reasons for such action on your behalf. But rather one of industry," wrote Coral Way branch manager Ricardo Garcia. "Unfortunately your company's line of business is not commensurate with the industries we work with."
BankUnited refused to explain the email to New Times, saying only, "We cannot discuss a customer's account."
But T.R. Liberti says the once-local bank has taken a turn toward anti-gun policies since it was bought by New York investors during the financial crisis.
"They have that [former New York mayor Michael] Bloomberg attitude of guns are bad and anyone who has a gun is bad. You know the lot," he says. "That's cute, because Bloomberg has four bodyguards, and they all carry guns. You don't have that when you are broken down on Biscayne Boulevard at 3 in the morning."
The Libertis' story is backed up by similar online complaints about BankUnited, but it's difficult to verify them. The couple is considering a lawsuit.
"I wouldn't sue them over the money," T.R. says. "If I sued them, it'd be on constitutional grounds. Our civil rights have been violated."
But the Libertis -- both of whom legally carry firearms at all times -- say they might not need to sue to make their point.
"Florida is one of the biggest shooting states in the country," T.R. says. "BankUnited has quite a few depositors who are shooters. If the media gets hold of the story, I think a lot of people will drop them, and they will feel the sting."