Woman accused of making ethnic threats against Jewish credit bureau workers
A woman who police say made 40 increasingly disturbing calls in 20 minutes to a Jewish loan office in Bloomfield Township faces charges of ethnic intimidation.
Investigators said the woman sparked a series of racially insulting phone calls that culminated in a threat against employees of the Hebrew Free Loan of Metropolitan Detroit.
This led to Oakland County officials filing two counts of ethnic intimidation – a two-year felony, also punishable by fines of up to $ 5,000 – against April Marie Bennett, 29, of Hastings, a small town of 7,300 people in western Michigan.
In addition to ethnic bullying, Bennett was charged last month with malicious use of a telecommunications service after detectives spent months tracing calls she made from her hometown to the Hebrew Free Loan office of Bloomfield Township, according to Bloomfield Township Police.
Bennett’s appeals immediately followed the nonprofit’s refusal to grant an interest-free loan to an appellant because he was not Jewish, police said.
The loan bureau only grants interest-free loans to Michigan residents who are Jewish – a seemingly discriminatory practice, but it is legitimate because interest-free loans from a nonprofit group are not regulated by the rules that govern them. banks, credit unions and other non-profit organizations. for-profit lenders, according to consumer credit experts.
Internet users may come across Hebrew Free Loan of Metropolitan Detroit if they use search terms such as “free loans” and “interest free loans”.
The investigation that led to Bennett’s arrest began on January 3 when a man called the loan office to apply for a loan, was told he was ineligible because he did not was not Jewish, said it was “not fair” and hung up, Township Police Lieutenant Paul Schwab said.
Shortly after, credit bureau workers told police, a woman started calling with disturbing statements. But instead of being anti-Semitic, as you might expect, his explosions were anti-black – apparently because several of the office’s phone tellers, on Telegraph Road south of Maple Road, are African-American, Schwab said. .
It took months of investigation, but detectives eventually obtained enough evidence that police could link the threats to Bennett 130 miles away, he said.
In phone calls, “first she started dropping the N-bomb, and she referred to Trump building the wall and wanting to send (the cashiers) all back to Africa. She made all kinds of references, like the picking cotton. She finally said something like, “I come over there and blow your head off,” and that was a very active threat, “Schwab said.
Immediately after employees reported the threat, police had no idea where it came from and as they investigated they provided “extra heavy patrols for weeks” around the loan office, Schwab said.
They had to get a search warrant to check phone records, trace calls to Hastings, and then send detectives there to question Bennett, who “denied it was her,” Schwab said.
“It took a good old fashioned detective job and we proved it was her,” he said.
Last month, at the request of Oakland County authorities, Hastings Police arrested Bennett, not without a fight, Schwab said. “She has a history of brawling with the police” and a criminal history of assault, he said.
On June 20, Bennett was arraigned in 48th District Court before Judge Kimberly Small and, after failing to post a $ 50,000 cash bond, she was being held in the Oakland County Jail, records show. from prison.
Bennett did not have a lawyer after her arraignment because “she was a bad girl when she was here and did not fill out any paperwork for us,” said a criminal record clerk from the 48th District Court, who requested that his name is not used.
The Metropolitan Detroit’s free Hebrew loan began in 1895 in the backroom of a shoe store in Detroit, according to the nonprofit group’s website. These days, the organization operates as an agency of the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit, said credit bureau executive director David Contorer.
“A threat to our team members would never be acceptable, but at this time, when things are happening on college campuses and in places of worship, it is particularly worrying,” Contorer said.
“So we are very grateful to the police for following this case,” he said.
Contact Bill Laitner: [email protected]