A group of 10 to 12 women recently robbed two elderly monks at a Lao Buddhist temple in Phoenix, distracting them with prayer requests.
The incident: The group entered the Wat Lao Thammaram temple located at 16th and Purdue avenues in the late morning of April 8, posing as people seeking prayers, according to AZ Central.
One of the suspects allegedly approached a monk to ask for prayer for her sick husband, recalled Phoenix Keoma, a member of the temple.
The other suspects wandered around the temple and illegally entered the monks’ bedrooms, taking $1,000 from one of the monks, reportedly in his 50s, and $500 from another, who is in his 80s.
They also allegedly took a donation box and any other items they could grab from the temple before fleeing the scene, AZ Family reported.
A man told police that he was physically restrained during the robbery, and Keoma added that a monk who came from outside was distracted by another prayer request.
The aftermath: Authorities said no one was injured during the robbery, and the monks are not asking for help or that the suspects are caught. They only want to feel safe.
“With the rise in Asian hate crimes and especially the elders getting targeted, it kind of hit a lot closer to home now,” Keoma said. “…To rob our temple, especially around Lao New Year, was a really hard blow to a lot of our community.”
In a string of similar incidents from late March in Southern California, one temple had thieves requesting a chant for a sick grandmother as a distraction to steal donation boxes.
Wat Lao Thammaram has now closed its gates to the public and an appointment must be made to meet with the monks, according to AZ Family.
Instagram page Arizona Lao Community shared screenshots of the alleged thieves, including their faces covered in masks and the plate of their vehicle.
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