Romanian Gangsters Targets Houses Of Worship Here In The US

( — Back in March, 23-year-old Alex Dumitru and 18-year-old Natalian Dumitru were arrested at their home in Catonsville, Maryland. They were charged with first-degree burglary and other related charges. According to the Montgomery County Police, they are suspected of robbing Buddhist temples up and down the East Coast. The two are believed to be part of a Romanian organized crime ring that targets temples and mosques for theft.

Kate Chance, Montgomery County’s faith community liaison, says more than a dozen houses of worship have been burglarized in recent months. While there have been no injuries, thieves have broken down doors and caused other minor damage as they search for money and valuables. In April the Buddhist Temple Wat Thai in Washington, D.C., was hit when three men made off with around $20,000 from the monk’s residential area. The Ahmadiya Muslim Community in Maryland was also broken into. The thieves destroyed a door but according to National General Secretary Mukhtar Malhi, they did not take anything.

Montgomery County Police believe all of this to be the work of the Romanian Organized Crime Group, also known as ROMAs. Montgomery County Police Lieutenant Andrew Suh says there have been no more houses of worship burglarized since the Dumitru brothers were arrested. He says the group has been operating in the area for at least a decade. He characterizes fighting back against their crimes as being like “cutting the heads of a hydra”. Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe emphasized the need for local houses of worship to be vigilant and careful. She added that these religious groups should apply for grants to help cover security but conceded that the county needs to increase those grants.

Chris Swecker, former FBI agent and assistant director, commented that he’d never seen organized crime specifically target religious organizations like this. However, he says he is very familiar with the Romanian Organized Crime Group. He added that this is not a big or violent group of criminals, rather, they are opportunistic “hit-and-run artists”. Swecker mentioned that taking down organized crime really falls under the FBI’s purview, but as the situation stands, local law enforcement is forced to cope with them in a disjointed manner. Ruangrit Thaithae from the Wat Thai Buddhist Temple, who goes by Monk Jack, says he believes that karma will catch up to them.

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