Woman convicted in Buddhist temple vandalism is now suspect in theft of religious statues

A woman who was convicted of damaging statues at a Santa Ana Buddhist temple last year is at it again, police said.

Santa Ana police said Trang Thu Pham targeted another Buddhist temple on Feb. 26, stealing two 2-foot-tall statues from a shrine.

The shrine was near a sidewalk outside Chua Truc Lam Yen Tu Buddhist Temple in the 1900 block of West 2nd Street in Santa Ana, according to police. Surveillance video shows Pham returning again on March 6 and stealing a third statue, police said.

The statues are valued at about $3,000.

A temple worker watched the video and recognized Pham from a similar theft that had occurred last year at another temple, police said.

“The victim remembered the media coverage from the previous incident and searched the Internet for the story,” the police department said in a statement.

Pham was arrested Friday morning as she walked in a Santa Ana neighborhood, police said. 

Pham was originally arrested on Jan. 13, 2015, in connection with throwing glass bottles and damaging statues of Buddha in front of Hong Tich Buddhist Temple in the 4800 block of West 5th Street.

In that case, police said she had a personal dispute with a person connected with the temple.

Pham was convicted of vandalizing the temple and was sentenced to 298 days in jail. She was placed on five years' formal probation, but she never reported to the probation department, authorities said.

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