| Posted: Thursday, Oct 24, 2013 01:30 pm
Thieves made off with a week's worth of collection money from Holy Family Catholic Church on Monday in a distraction-style scheme.
At approximately 11 a.m. on Oct. 21, three collection counters were leaving the parish office to deposit the collection money at the bank. The women were approached in the parking lot by a man described as dark skinned, possibly Mexican, approximately 30 years of age and wearing a quilted black vest and black pants.
The man told the women they had dropped some cash and pointed to strewn bills on the ground. The woman were distracted and proceeded to pick the bills up.
At the same time, a second person approached the vehicle of another collection counter who had the bag of collection money in her SUV. The accomplice broke the window of the vehicle while the driver was distracted and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash and cheques.
"We were really shaken up over it," said Vera Fischer, office administrator at Holy Family. Fischer was inside the office during the theft but spoke with the women involved afterwards.
She said the group of women was so distracted by the strewn money that they didn't see how the thieves got away.
"We're just guessing that the person who broke the window of the SUV … probably had a vehicle waiting for him or available to him in a very near vicinity. I believe the person that distracted the ladies waited and continued to distract them until he knew for sure his accomplice had gone away," she said.
Fischer added that air was let out of one tire on each of the two vehicles that were used to deposit the collection money at the bank, most likely to "slow them down."
"This is why we think it was a well-planned out and executed heist because they knew the vehicles of the people that were going to the bank," she said.
On Monday, Holy Family was also an election poll location. Fischer estimates there were 15 to 20 people in the parking lot and just as many in the building at the time of the theft.
"I don't know how he just slithered into the crowd," she said.
The church has contacted every parishioner who made an envelope contribution that Sunday and are asking those who wrote a cheque to put a stop payment on it. Most banks will waive the fee if the stop payment is the result of theft, she said.
Fischer said that as a result of the theft, the church is changing its protocol for safe deposits and deliveries.
St. Albert RCMP is seeking information about this crime. They are asking those with information to call the local detachment at 780-458-7700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).