September 28, By Tara Law
A homeless man accused of breaking into four Queens houses of worship pleaded guilty to burglary as a hate crime today, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Joseph Woznik, 24, admitted that he broke into houses of worship in Flushing, Woodside and Elmhurst to “get back at God.” He stole cash, checks and damaged various items belonging to the religious institutions. He is expected to be sentenced to 1 ½ to 4 ½ years in prison.
Woznik pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary as a hate crime and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, among other charges, according to the DA’s office.
“In pleading guilty, the defendant has admitted he acted with hatred for God when he brazenly broke into the houses of worship,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown in a statement. “The defendant sought to enrich himself as well as to strike vengeance on God by stealing from the religious institutions.”
The first burglary took place on March 21 at Bangladesh Hindu Mandir Temple in Flushing, according to the DA’s office.
A temple employee discovered that three donation boxes had been forced open, and that the cash inside was missing. Fingerprints lifted from the donation boxes were a match for Woznik.
Woznik then burglarized St. Joseph Episcopal Church in Flushing three times.
On March 24, he pried open the office door at the church and took $1,600. On April 3, he broke through the office door again and ransacked the office, taking a digital camera. On April 10, Woznik broke into the office and took three checks from the church’s checkbook.
That same day, April 10, Woznik broke into St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Elmhurst but fled when the church alarm went off. He also went that day to Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians (St. Mary’s of Winfield) in Woodside and ransacked the office.
The St. Mary’s donation box had pry marks, and there was a hammer on the floor beside it, according to the DA’s office. Surveillance footage captured Woznik walking around the church and prying open the donation box with a hammer. After he was arrested, Wozniak also admitted that he had taken $20 from beneath a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Woznik explained his actions at the time of his arrest.
“I’m mad at God,” he said. “I don’t like church no more. I don’t want to deal with religion. I’m sick and tired of hearing about religion. I don’t break into houses, only churches.”
Woznik’s sentencing is set for Oct. 13.