Cameras catch men stealing from Big Island Buddhist temple shortly after taking tour

Published: Sep. 27, 2019 at 5:28 AM HST
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HONOKAA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Surveillance cameras caught two men stealing from a Big Island Buddhist temple, shortly after taking a tour of the church.

“They came to the church and they pretended to be interested in learning about Buddhism and about the history of our church,” said Sandy Takahashi, treasurer for Hamakua Jodo Mission. “Our church president was on the premises at the time and gave them a tour. Even gave them drinks because it was a hot day outside.”

Takahashi says because the Hamakua Jodo Mission has been a target for thieves and vandals over the last year, they installed security cameras around the property.

The video shows the pair leaving the church in their white pickup truck, only to return a little over an hour later after everyone left.

“The security camera system in the kitchen and dining hall, they dismantled the whole system, stole the DVR, recorder, as well as all the cameras and wiring. They stole some cases of beverages, the food in the refrigerator. They went into the temple a few times and we have a collection box in the area,” Takahashi said.

Takahashi says their 85-year-old president was shocked to find the mess left behind the next day.

She says they took images from their second security camera system and posted the thieves' photos on social media.

"Couple of hours, we started getting names and people identifying especially one individual," she said.

Good samaritans recognized the man in the blue t-shirt at a nearby gas station and called the police.

Takahashi says he was caught and returned some of the items, but now they want the public's help in finding his friend.

"We really do a lot to help the community and to see that these people steal from a sacred place is really heartbreaking for our members. For our church, we barely survive on donations and when something like this happens we really take a hit financially," she said.

If you recognize the other suspect in the video or know of his whereabouts, please call Big Island police.

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