WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — A West Bloomfield woman is accused of stealing more than half a million dollars from 20 metro Detroit homes.
Thirty-nine-year-old Beata Tarnawska is facing nine felony counts for stealing from homes she was hired to clean. Some families say she had been their housekeeper for over a decade and became part of the family.
"Your stomach drops," West Bloomfield resident Heather George said.
To George, Tarnawska was like family. She had been the family’s housekeeper for nearly seven years with access to her home, her kids and everything she owned.
"We felt like we could trust her, that she was reliable,” George said.
It wasn’t until last year that George found out other friends who hired Tarnawska had items missing. Then George herself noticed some of her things were gone too.
"She was very smart about it because she did not take the things we wear everyday," George said. "She took the things that were older, in another place, that were hidden.”
George says all kinds of jewelry, cash and family heirlooms estimated to be about $20,000 worth were missing from drawers and even a locked safe that Tarnawska found the key to. George says Tarnawska admitted to stealing a watch, so George finally called West Bloomfield police.
“It took this one resident here in West Bloomfield to confront her, and she did admit to taking that watch, and that’s where we launched the investigation,” Deputy Chief Curt Lawson of the West Bloomfield Police Department said.
Lawson says that admission led to a search warrant of Tarnawska’s home, where police found other items like expensive purses they believed were also stolen. Eventually, detectives connected them to 20 different homes across Oakland County and Grosse Pointe.
They believe they can prove Tarnawska stole more than half a million dollars worth of valuables.
“There is a lot of value in the items that were taken, but they’re also family heirlooms that they’re not going to get back,” Lawson said. "There's some items that were put through pawnshops. We've been able to retrieve some of those items, but she sold a lot of items on social media and those have been difficult to track.”
Lorna of West Bloomfield is another one of those victims. She says Tarnawska found the combination to their safe and stole cash and priceless family heirlooms.
“The saddest thing is she took the things that mean the most, the things that are irreplaceable,” Lorna said. "All my mother-in-law's jewelry is gone, and everything my father-in-law left my husband is gone. It's just horrible what she’s done to people. She’s taken a lot of memories.”
Lorna believes the real amount Tarnawska stole is likely upward of $1 million in total. So far, police have only recovered some items and about $8,000 in cash. However, one of the biggest things these families say they lost is trust.
“What we’re trying to do is make people aware," George said. "Yes, you can trust somebody, but have everything locked up. Do what you can with all of your items so this doesn't happen to you.”
Detectives in West Bloomfield do believe there may still be more victims out there. If you have any information, you’re asked to contact the West Bloomfield Police Department Investigations Division at 248-975-8960.
Tarnawska was arraigned on nine felony counts Thursday and was given a $50,000 bond. She could face decades in prison.