Florida police have arrested a group of thieves who stole more than $740,000 from churches across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says the group of six stole at least 1,700 checks out of church mailboxes, from 600 different churches and church schools nationwide. The suspects’ operation was based in Orlando.
Law enforcement officials believe the suspects used the money to buy clothes, food, vehicles and entertainment, and also send large amounts of money to Romania.
“They would spread the checks between themselves to be deposited into various bank accounts using ATMs. Once the money posted to an account, they withdrew the funds immediately in cash before the banks realized the checks were actually made payable to churches and not the suspects,” said Shane Pollard with FDLE.
While the pandemic caused many churches to close in-person services, financial donations were still be dropped off at church offices or mailboxes or electronically. Many of these donations helped keep churches afloat.
Four out of the six suspects have been arrested. Police are searching for the remaining members of the group, but in the meantime, churches may want to remind everyone of one of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not steal.”