CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - “Every temple should be cautious about unknown faces,” Sheela Lingham said.
The Hindu Temple of Atlanta is sharing a strong warning to Hindis across the Atlanta area, after priests at the largest Hindu temple in the Southeast said crooks got away with thousands of dollars worth of gold necklaces Friday.
One priest told FOX 5 News this is the first theft from the temple, located in Clayton County, in nearly three decades; the thieves struck less than 24 hours after another temple reported a similar crime in Forsyth County.
"This is the only left, all are gone,” priest Keshava Murthy said, pointing to a hidden gold necklace on an idol in the Sri Maha Lakshmi Temple of Atlanta.
In both incidents, priests said the crooks tore 24K gold necklaces from idols – crimes, they said, that are too similar to be a coincidence.
"[The surveillance] pictures look very, very familiar to me,” Lingham said. “I'm pretty sure, 99 percent."
Surveillance cameras caught the suspects at both locations: Sri Maha Lakshmi Temple on Thursday and Hindu Temple of Atlanta on Friday. Both groups in the footage appear to include two men, two women, a teen, and a small child – details that lead the temples to believe they are the same thieves.
Lingham said she now sees through the group's carefully-crafted plot -- asking questions, practicing phrases like Namaste, and accepting free food – all a cover-up for their brazen crime.
“They should feel guilty about themselves, [taking] such things from the god,” Lingham said.
Both temples' priests said they will be boosting security as a result of the thefts, now requiring any unfamiliar faces to sign and present their driver's licenses before entering the prayer room.