Donations stolen from SWFL church buildings in nationwide theft ring

2021-05-27 02:45:10


The Florida Division of Regulation Enforcement and Cape Coral Police Division held a press convention Wednesday afternoon in Fort Myers to announce the outcomes of a theft-ring bust.

Operation “Thou Shalt Not Steal” focused the theft of a whole bunch of 1000’s of {dollars} in church donations all through the U.S.

Investigators say six suspects stole greater than $740,000 from 600 church buildings and church colleges nationwide, together with hitting dozens of them in Southwest Florida.

“They might unfold the checks between themselves to be deposited into varied financial institution accounts utilizing ATMs,” mentioned Shane Pollard with FDLE. “As soon as the cash posted into the account, they withdrew the funds instantly in money earlier than the banks realized the checks have been really made payable to the church buildings and never the suspects.”

The suspects operated out of Orlando, however hit church buildings in Lee and Collier counties by stealing checks out of church mailboxes. One of many victims was Cape Coral’s Grace Church, the place $7,000 was stolen.

Investigators say the suspects used the cash to purchase garments, meals, autos and leisure.

“It was nearly an ideal crime as COVID-19 swept the nation,” Pollard mentioned. “Some church members stayed house from in-person church providers and mail them their choices.”

4 suspects are in custody, and investigators are looking for two extra — Catalin Trandafir and Simona Trandafir

“The variety of church buildings stolen is greater than 700, however I anticipate that quantity to extend as we proceed to research,” Pollard mentioned.

Going to church and donating cash are a daily a part of Gayle Malvezzi’s life.

“I might normally write a verify for 4 to 6 weeks or one thing relying on my temper and my checking account,” mentioned Malvezzi, who attends providers at New Hope Church in Cape Coral.

Malvezzi was shocked when she obtained a name from the church.

“Someone had stolen the checks, and it simply so occurred that mine was one of many ones that was stolen,” Malvezzi mentioned.

Reviews present New Hope Chruch in Cape Coral was amongst these in Southwest Florida hit by the suspects accused of operating a theft ring.

“I’m blessed that it wasn’t my final $300,” Malvezzi mentioned. “However for the church, it might have been any individual’s electrical invoice or meals for a month.”

Again when then donations have been stolen, that’s precisely what they have been getting used for.

“It was actually meals; it was lease cash; it was electrical invoice paying cash; water invoice paying cash,” mentioned Lead Pastor David Acton of New Hope Church.

It wasn’t solely serving to the church buildings keep afloat. A number of church buildings advised us the cash was serving to individuals of their communities make ends meet.

“I assumed it was some children or possibly some of us locally that simply didn’t know what else to do to make ends meet,” Acton mentioned. “Now that I do know it wasn’t that. It was the truth is a bigger ring of thieves in all probability from one other nation, yeah, I’m fairly ticked off.”

Investigators say the thieves despatched massive quantities of cash abroad to Romania. However regardless of the crippling blow, church buildings say they’re grateful for the persevering with generosity from the neighborhood.

“Whereas this was disappointing and discouraging for us, we have been nonetheless in a position to carry on mission and carry on focus of our influence in our neighborhood,” mentioned Govt Pastor Taylor Foley of Grace Methodist Church.

Church buildings are additionally making modifications to make sure donations get to the individuals who want them. Some are changing mailboxes with one’s that lock, and so they’re aiming safety cameras at them. Others are forwarding all their mail to a P.O. field, to allow them to choose it up in particular person.

Watch the complete press convention under or click on right here.

SWFL church buildings that fell sufferer to theft ring

  1. Grace United Methodist Church, 13 SE twenty first Place, Cape Coral, Florida
  2. New Hope Baptist Church, 431 Nicholas Parkway, Cape Coral, Florida
  3. Abiding Love Lutheran Church, 3205 Chiquita Blvd. South, Cape Coral, Florida
  4. Windfall Christian Church, 701 Mohawk Parkway, Cape Coral, Florida 5. Cape Coral Group Church, 811 Santa Barbara Blvd., Cape Coral, Florida
  5. Messiah Lutheran Church, 2691 Pine Island Street, Cape Coral, Florida
  6. Grace Baptist Church, 1300 Ceitus Terrace, Cape Coral, Florida
  7. First Baptist Church, 4117 Coronado Parkway, Cape Coral, Florida
  8. Cape Baptist Church, 435 SE tenth Terrace, Cape Coral, Florida
  9. Peace Lutheran Church, 15840 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, Florida
  10. Crossroads Baptist Church, 1071 Palm Seaside Blvd., Fort Myers, Florida
  11. Iona Hope Episcopal Church, 9650 Gladiolus Drive, Fort Myers, Florida
  12. Southwest Florida Baptist Church, 16940 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, Florida
  13. Religion United Methodist Church, 15690 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, Florida
  14. Zion Lutheran Church, 7401 Winkler Street, Fort Myers, Florida
  15. Subsequent Stage Church East, 2645 Discussion board Blvd., Unit # 547, Fort Myers, Florida 17. Seaside Baptist Church, 130 Connecticut Avenue, Fort Myers, Florida
  16. Gateway Trinity Lutheran Church (GTLC), 11381 Gateway Blvd., Fort Myers, Florida
  17. Cypress Lake United Methodist Church, 8570 Cypress Lake Dr, Fort Myers, Florida
  18. Calvary Meeting of god of Fort Myers, 11431 Palm Seaside Blvd, Fort Myers, Florida
  19. San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare, 6029 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers, Florida 22. North Shore Alliance Church, 330 W. Martana Ave, Fort Myers, Florida
  20. First Church of the Nazarene, 13545 American Colony Blvd, Fort Myers, Florida
  21. Rosa De Saron AG Church, 13235 Palm Seaside Blvd, Fort Myers, Florida

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