DETROIT (WXYZ) — Detroit police told 7 Action News they got a call complaining about possible street racing, responded and found a group of about 80 people with cars. They started seizing vehicles. But were those vehicles part of a street race?
Two young women say no and that they were actually part of a commercial being made to celebrate Detroit. Innocent or not, it is costing them big time.
“The goal with this commercial was to celebrate Detroit’s culture and I was excited to be on this project to be able to provide this stuff for a community I am part of and come from,” Carmen Mirachian said.
Mirachian is a recent graduate of Wayne State University, Detroiter and video producer. She says as she was working on a video for a retailer to celebrate 313 Day earlier this month, a U-Haul pickup truck driver seemed to want attention. He did donuts after driving by the video crew, leading to the police calls from neighbors. She says the crew shooting the video did not know him.
“And they accused us of drag racing, even though that truck was not part of us and we were not drag racing,” Mirachian said.
“The whole commercial was supposed to be a love letter from Detroit,” said Tashi Bhutia, an executive producer from New York City.
Bhutia says all driving was slow. Still, Detroit police told 7 Action News they cited her for spectating drag racing and producing a video without a permit.
Mirachian admits she tried but couldn’t get a permit by deadline. The city website says it can take up to three business days and she called after that window but says there was no street racing.
“That ticket, the no permit ticket doesn’t allow them to seize anything. So in my opinion, they were showing a flex of power,” said Ramy Hijazi, their attorney.
Hijazi says investigators knew when they seized a van from New York filled with video production equipment rented from a New York production company that someone would probably be willing to pay to get it back, even if they were innocent. You can negotiate a settlement to get seized property returned when accused of such a crime as street racing.
“A New York vehicle. New York ticket. Every day is costing them money,” Hijazi said.
“Probably $20,000 to $30,000 already,” Bhutia said of her monetary losses.
Bhutia is in her early 20s and just starting out in her career. She says Michiganders should not allow the government to do this to people who are not proven guilty.
Her attorney is working to negotiate a settlement to be paid to the prosecutor's office for the property, even though she says she is innocent. She says she feels if she doesn’t pay the settlement to get the rented equipment returned, she will have no way to recoup the much larger losses accruing.
“We have been working with the producer’s lawyer on this matter, but we are not able to disclose anything further at this time,” the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.