ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Police said the band of thieves targeted Hindu temples and houses of worship. Metro area temples in Riverdale and Cumming fell victim to the group who stole thousands of dollars in jewelry and cash in May. Federal authorities said the suspects carried out similar crimes in six states.
A representative of one of the area temples reacted to the suspects' arrest.
We have upgraded our security system...we can see everybody who is coming, there is monitoring 24 hours," said Sheela Lingham of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta.
Lingham said the Riverdale temple has beefed up security since thieves stole thousands of dollars in 24 karat gold necklaces from the Hindu temple of Atlanta in Riverdale on May 18.
"We've really increased our security because of this," said Lingham.
Valer Iazmin Varga, Robert-Auras Adam, Ana-Loredana Adam and co-defendant Stela Patricia Varag were arrested on September 11 in Louisiana on a federal arrest warrant for burglary in the Riverdale case.
The group is accused of committing a similar theft at a temple in Cumming, Georgia and other Hindu and Buddhist places of worship in six different states.
The thieves posed as tourists and stole gold and money. Lingham said the suspects took advantage of the victims' custom of receiving visitors with open arms in their temples and religious centers.
"We started suspecting everybody who was coming through and whom we don't know which is not good for the community," Lingham.
They struck during operating hours. As one or more of the suspects distracted temple representatives by asking them about temple customs and practices, the other defendants carried out their bold crime.
“I am happy, even though the financial loss was great, but at least we solved who did it and they are punished," said Lingham
Lingham said as part of their security measures visitors are now required to sign in with their driver's licenses when visiting the temple.