ALBANY, New York (AP) _ A bank refused to offer mortgages to African-Americans living in Buffalo, New York’s attorney general said in a lawsuit that he said was part of a wider investigation into an illegal practice known in the U.S. as redlining.

Evans Bank violated fair housing and discrimination laws by intentionally denying services and products on the predominantly African-American east side of New York state’s second-biggest city, the federal lawsuit alleges.

The bank’s president, David Nasca, called the accusations “meritless.” He said Evans, which has 13 branches in western New York state, will vigorously defend itself.

“We remain confident that our residential lending practices meet all applicable laws and regulations,” Nasca said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit alleges that Evans used a map to define its lending area that excluded the city’s east side, home to more than 75 percent of the city’s African-American population. The company is also accused of refusing to market its loan products or locate its branches in the area.

Schneiderman said the lawsuit is part of a wider investigation by his office into redlining, in which a lender denies access to mortgages or charges more in certain neighborhoods based on race.

“Redlining is illegal and it’s discriminatory _ and must, once and for all, be made a thing of the past,” Schneiderman said. “It is crucial that all New Yorkers, regardless of the color of their skin or the racial composition of their neighborhood, be afforded an equal opportunity to obtain credit.”