Romanian Robbers Steal Checks from Churches in Florida and Nationwide
Four Romanian robbers were arrested May 26 for their role in a crime ring that stole $760,000 in donation checks from more than 350 Florida churches before targeting another 300 churches in North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Oregon.
The ring stole more than 1,700 checks from church mailboxes, which contained more donations than normal during the pandemic lockdowns, as people who didn’t worship in person mailed donations to their churches.
“This theft ring took full advantage of the situation, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in church donations out of church mailboxes,” said a Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman.
The criminals then used a variety of aliases to deposit the checks into numerous bank accounts, then quickly withdrew the funds.
The thefts started in Lee County, home of Fort Myers and Cape Coral, in November 2019, and then spread countrywide.
The Fort Myers News-Press reported that suspects used the stolen donations to purchase vehicles, food, and clothing, as well as sending big-dollar wire transfers to Romania.
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Thieves visited churches on days when no services were held, stopped at the mailboxes and took all the mail, including checks. Officials said the criminals could hit up to 85 churches a day, with some targeted repeatedly.
A Methodist church in Cape Coral first noticed problems when members’ donations were not reflected in the church’s quarterly giving statements. After checking with its bank, the church contacted police.
Earlier in May, Romanian robbers were arrested after invading a Buddhist temple in Rogers, Arkansas.