Suspect distracts priest while others steal $15K of gold from Hindu temple

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A Hindu community is in shock after an elaborate plot, involving multiple visits, played out right under priests' noses.

Security cameras revealed a group of six people, which appear to include children, steal $15,000 worth of gold chains from one of the temple's most sacred places.

Priest Keshava Murthy said 24K gold necklaces are missing from at least 10 female goddesses at Sri Maha Lakshmi Temple of Atlanta in Forsyth County.

Murthy said this is the first time a theft has ever happened in the temple’s four years.

In the video, you can see a suspect distract a priest on one side of the prayer room, while the others reach into the idols’ casings.

Eventually, one of the suspects brings the priest outside to record an interview about the Hindu religion; that's when a woman enters a sanctum, where only priests are allowed.

The priests said they welcomed the unfamiliar faces with kindness, even giving them small gifts and entertaining questions about the Hindu religion on camera. But minutes after their exit, the priests realized their curiosity was in fact a cover up for their crime.

“They make us look foolish because we believed them,” Murthy said. 

And with a closer review of the surveillance video, Murthy noticed Thursday wasn't the thieves’ first visit. Some of the suspects are seen on video stopping by the prayer room the week before; they were snapping pictures of the statues - against protocol.

The Hindu Temple of Atlanta in Clayton County reported a similar crime one day later. A representative told FOX 5 six suspects entered the temple and got away with 24K gold chains – consistent with the theft at Sri Maha Lakshmi Temple. 

Clayton County police and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to our inquiries about a possible connection at the time this story was published.