WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) – A homeless couple is facing criminal charges for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars worth of checks in Washington County.
According to police, the pair was caught on video surveillance camera pulling up on churches and cemeteries in their minivan and swiping checks from the mailboxes.
Thirty-five-year-old Ionel Mihai and 27-year-old Adela Chiciu, both from Romania, are the suspects accused of stealing and cashing the checks. Court records show the couple was homeless and living out of a Washington County motel where police picked them up last week.
In July, North Strabane Township police said the two allegedly stole cash and 13 bank checks totaling $3,600 from the All Saints Greek Church.
Peters Township police also had reports of checks stolen from Peace Lutheran Church, court records indicate.
“A few of our members noticed their checks weren’t being cashed and being cashed in a strange way, said Pastor Justin Schmidt from Peace Lutheran Church.
One cemetery and two more churches in Peters Township were also missing checks, totaling another roughly $3,000, according to court records.
Pastor Schmidt told KDKA because of the pandemic, some people are sending donations through the mail and other methods, other than the offering plate.
“The problem is when you have a congregation, you have four generations. So our most elderly are not embracing computers as much as the younger generation,” he said.
The pastor told KDKA when mailing offerings, “contact the church and just leave a message to the secretary.”
Police said the couple was captured on camera stealing the checks and cashing them into a joint Northwest Bank account, mostly by ATM and using forged signatures.
Both were arrested and are being held at the Washington County Jail for fraud, forgery and theft charges.
Pastor Schmidt expressed his gratitude for Peters Township police detectives for successfully handling the case.