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.
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- 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.