A Detroit woman said she returned a misplaced credit card she found at a convenience store only to end up in handcuffs and accused of being a thief.
Sandra Wilson said she was making her regular trip to a gas station across the street from her home before work on June 16 when she noticed someone left a credit card on the counter.
Before picking it up, Wilson followed the last customer who left the store to the parking lot and asked her if she left the card behind. The woman said yes, and Sandra returned to the store, retrieved the credit card, and gave it to the woman, surveillance footage shows.
The good deed spurred an avalanche of events in Wilson’s life that she never expected because of a “sloppy” police investigation. Wilson said it “ruined her life.”
“We’ve given too much power to people to have too much control to just ruin your life and have no care,” she told WXYZ Channel 7 in tears.
What Wilson didn’t know at the time is that she gave the card to the wrong customer.
Surveillance footage shows there was another woman in the gas station’s store when Wilson went to get her favorite brand of cigarettes. That woman walked out the door as Wilson was walking in and unbeknownst to Wilson was the true owner of the credit card.
Wilson went on to complete her shift as a security guard unaware of the mistake and how much it would cost her. Soon, she started receiving calls from family and friends saying that she was wanted.
Someone spent hundreds of dollars buying alcohol on the woman’s credit card, and the Detroit Police Department pulled an image of Wilson from the surveillance video and accused her of being involved in a scheme to steal the other woman’s credit card that she held for only 15 seconds.
Police posted Wilson’s photograph on Twitter, and she was also featured on the Crime News in the D Instagram page. Both posts said Wilson was wanted for illegally using someone else’s credit card, WXYZ reports.
“I was like, I just went to the store!” Wilson recalled. “I just went to the store!”
When Wilson went to the police station to clear her name, video footage shows the officers accused her of lying, ignored Wilson’s requests for a lawyer, and placed her in handcuffs. She spent three days in jail and was charged with two felonies that could’ve sent her to prison for up to four years.
Wilson asked for an attorney three times. The detectives who questioned the woman then documented her requests for an attorney, but they still continued the interrogation pressuring her for a statement.
“I don’t know what y’all want me to tell y’all,” she cries on the interrogation video. “I just walked into a gas station and you all took my picture and ruined my life.”
Wilson’s attorney Brandon McNeal said that the police used her shaky recollection of the details to charge her in the case.
“I gave the card to the man behind the counter,” Wilson tells police in the video.
“Ma’am. Ma’am. We know that’s a lie,” a detective standing over Wilson replies.
“Who did I give it to? I said here’s the card, is this your card. I don’t know, I just don’t know them,” she replied.
Investigators refused to show Wilson the surveillance video, McNeal said. They only showed her still images of herself.
“Because she says that she gives the card to the clerk — just guessing at what she would do in that situation — they take that as evidence that somehow she’s in cahoots with the woman who used the card illegally,” the attorney said.
Four months after the ordeal, Judge Paul Cusick of Wayne County Third Circuit Court saw the video and dismissed the case before it was scheduled to go to trial in October.
“This is unbelievable to me,” Cusick said. “No trier of fact — even in the light most favorable to the prosecution —could ever think that Ms. Wilson is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“Absurd and ridiculous and wrong,” he added. “And this was not a thorough investigation.”
Although Wilson’s case was dismissed and the charges were dropped, her image is still floating around online labeling her a credit card thief. She hasn’t been able to find a new job and was evicted from her apartment.
“They embarrassed me. Humiliated me. I have 49 applications and I can’t get a job,” she said. “That’s not fair.”