Man accused of pretending to be a priest to steal money across US arrested in California

A stock image of a Bible
A stock image of a Bible

Police have arrested a man who they say posed as a priest to commit serial thefts across the country, from Southern California to Texas and New York.

Malin Rostas, a 45-year-old New York resident with an outstanding felony burglary warrant in Pennsylvania, was arrested on April 10 by Riverside County sheriffs deputies after investigators say Rostas had tried to steal from a church in the Moreno Valley, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Rostas was arrested on the outstanding warrant and charged on Tuesday with intent to defraud and stealing stolen property in connection with the Moreno Valley incident, according to court records obtained by USA TODAY on Wednesday.

Rostas has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Mike Flory, declined to comment on his client's behalf on Wednesday.

Authorities say that Rostas is behind a series of thefts at churches across the country and posed as a visiting priest to gain access to private areas.

Rostas' ties to New York, Texas

In October, a person calling himself “Father Martin” and identifying himself as a visiting priest visited six parishes in the Dallas area and was able to steal several hundred dollars from a parish in Houston, Diocese of Dallas spokeswoman Katy Kiser told the Catholic News Agency.

Rostas is accused of taking $500 from a priest’s wallet at the Houston church, according to the New York Times. "He claimed he was a visiting priest from Chicago and that he had been staying in the rectory and left his keys in one of the rooms," a Houston police spokesperson told the Times.

Rostas is also accused of stealing $6,000 worth of jewelry from a woman at the Holy Name Retreat Center in Memorial Villages, Texas, according to KHOU-TV, and $900 from a person at American Martyrs Church in New York.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Man posed as priest in California, Texas, New York to steal: Police