Man charged in church donation box thefts

TheftReligion and BeliefCrime, Law and JusticeHuman InterestCrimeJustice System

Prosecutors filed charges Wednesday against a 47-year-old Monrovia man who allegedly twice stole from an offering box at Holy Family Catholic Church.

Robert Amabisca faces two felony counts of second-degree commercial burglary and a misdemeanor count of possessing burglary tools, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Amabisca was arrested Monday on the church grounds at 209 E. Lomita Ave. after a facilities manager recognized him from surveillance video footage of a Dec. 29 theft, during which he was seen flipping the offering box upside down to steal money from a slot, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

“He was actually committing another burglary when he got caught,” Lorenz added.

In the most recent theft, the church facilities manager notified police about Amabisca after seeing him steal from the church again, he said.

The church facilities manager pointed out Amabisca to police, prompting him to immediately start walking away.

But police caught up with Amabisca, who was wearing the same clothes from the first theft, escorted him outside the church and arrested him, Lorenz said.

Officers checked Amabisca’s clothing and found $75 and 12-inch-long wires, which were likely used for fishing valuables from hard-to-reach places, police said.

Church officials placed a security camera near the offering box following a burglary last year. In that incident, Peter Galindro was convicted of burglary after stealing about $400 in donations to help the poor and for Haiti relief.

The total amount of stolen funds in the most recent thefts isn’t known because donations fluctuate, but officials say it could be a few hundred dollars.

Glendale police detectives are also investigating whether other churches have reported similar donation thefts.

Amabisca was cooperating with police and told them that he had recently fallen on hard times, Lorenz said. He was also allegedly struggling with an addiction to methamphetamine.

Amabisca was convicted in 2001 for possessing a controlled substance, and for burglary in 2009 in El Monte, according to a Los Angeles County Superior Court criminal complaint.
 
 

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