Catholic Churches Were Warned on Thursday of Man Scamming and Stealing from Area Parishes
Wyandotte church is the latest to be targeted, following incidents at Dearborn and Detroit parishes.
Three days before a man stole thousands from a Wyandotte church, the Archdiocese of Detroit put all parishes on notice to be watchful for a man who was scamming and stealing from Detroit-area churches.
Joe Kohn, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said the Easter Sunday incident at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church was “apparently done by the same person who was trying to gain access to where collections” were stored in other parishes.
According to a bulletin put out by the archdiocese on Thursday, parishes in Dearborn and Detroit have been conned over the last 10 days by a man who presents himself as a priest, going by the name of either Father John or Father Joe.
The man carried and/or wore a collar and was aware of church schedules and parish operations to the degree that he was able to get into a church or office at busy times.
In the Dearborn incident, he stopped in at St. Barbara Parish.
"In the case of the Dearborn parish, an attempt was made by a man fitting the same description as the one in Wyandotte to gain access to the collection box," Kohn said. "The man tried to impersonate a priest in that instance, but was kept an eye on by vigilant church personnel until he left the premises. Nothing was stolen from the church. This happened prior to last weekend, before the Archdiocese was made aware of a pattern."
In the Detroit incident, the man asked to use the bathroom in a parish office that shares space with the rectory. When he disappeared and couldn’t be found, staffers went looking for him.
A man who staffers believe was an accomplice was seen walking down the steps from the second floor. Wallets and a watch were then discovered to have been stolen.
In those cases, the suspect is described as Hispanic, in his 30s with a receding hairline, standing 5 feet to 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighing 130-150 pounds. His accomplice is described as white, in his late 50s to mid-60s, standing at least 6 feet tall, weighing about 225-235 pounds and wearing a hat and a red jacket.
In the Wyandotte incident, a well-dressed man walked into Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church at about 9:30 a.m. Easter Sunday through a side door that typically is locked. When a parishioner asked the man if he needed help, he said he was there to see the Rev. Walter Ptak.
The parishioner directed the man to a rear storage area where Ptak was storing items used during the Mass. The collection basket, which contained a bank deposit bag of the day's collections, also was in the room.
Ptak said he never spoke with or saw the man before realizing the bank deposit bag had been stolen. The man was then nowhere to be found.
The suspect in that case is described as white, in his late 40s with dark hair and a receding hairline. He is between 5 feet and 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 130 or 140 pounds. He was last seen wearing a beige-colored, waist-length jacket and brown pants.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call police at 734-324-4432.