A Detroit woman working as a temporary employee at Ferndale City Hall is charged with stealing and using credit card information from three residents and a business owner in the city and there may be more victims.
People who have used their credit cards for payments or other transactions at Ferndale City Hall in the last two months are asked to call police if they believe their credit information has been used illegally.
Bianka A. Hill, 25 was charged in Ferndale 43rd District Court on Wednesday with eight felonies — four for identify theft in stealing the credit information, and another four fraud charges for using the information for transactions.
“She used it to buy personal items,” said Ferndale Police Sgt. Baron Brown, “The total value of the items at the point could be up to $2,000.”
The thefts first came to light after a Ferndale woman contacted city police Saturday to report an identity theft, officials said. She told police she found several suspicious charges on her credit card statement.
Hill was arrested after she showed up at city hall for work Tuesday.
She had been hired as a front-counter cashier and service assistant from the Robert Hall/ Account Temps company, city officials said.
Brown said the thefts discovered so far happened starting Aug. 7 and investigators are looking at a two-month time frame when Hill could have stolen other credit and identity information.
“While we don’t have reason to believe that many others were affected,” said City Manager April Lynch said in a statement Wednesday, “We’re serious about making sure our residents’ information is secure.”
Police believe the credit card fraud is unrelated to any breach of the city’s computer system.
Hill is accused of manually copying credit card information from customers at city hall. Brown said police believe only people who used a credit card to make payments for fees, taxes, or permits at Ferndale City Hall within the last two months may be at risk.
“We anticipate some other victims may come forward,” Brown said.
Lynch said the city is implementing changes in how credit payments are made at city hall and upgrading security systems.
An enhanced credit card payment machine will be installed at city hall that allows customers to swipe their cards for payments and eliminate having city employees handle them.
“We’ll also be upgrading the city’s surveillance system,” Lynch said.
The temp company that employs the woman is cooperating with the police investigation, officials said.
Hill was jailed on $25,000 cash bond following her arraignment. Each of the four identity theft charges against her is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Each of the credit fraud charges is a four-year felony with a fine of up to $5,000.
She is scheduled for pre-exam conference in Ferndale District Court at 1 p.m. Oct. 5.
Many city workers were upset when they learned of the charges against Hill, said Brown, adding that many people had the impression she was a nice person.
“It makes everybody who works for the city look bad,” he said. “We work hard to be transparent and do a good job, but all it takes is for one person to mess it up.”