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Man charged for burglarizing four Queens churches, motivated by hatred of God

St Mary’s of Winfield targeted

April 13, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan

A homeless man was charged yesterday with breaking in to four different churches throughout Queens over the past few months in an attempt to “get back at God.”

According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, 23-year-old Joseph Woznik was charged with burglary and larceny as hate crimes, among other charges, after he burglarized four places of worship in Elmhurst, Woodside and Flushing in March and April of this year.

“The defendant is accused of acting on his hatred of God to brazenly but ecumenically target various houses of worship in Queens County to break into in order to steal cash and other items. The defendant now faces serious prison time if convicted,” Brown said in a statement.

Between March 21 and April 10, Woznik allegedly burglarized the Bangladesh Hindu Maunder Temple in Flushing, Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians (St. Mary’s of Winfield) in Woodside, St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Elmhurst and St. James Episcopal Church in Flushing, which was burglarized three times.

When he was arrested, Woznik allegedly stated that he burglarized the churches because, ““I’m mad at God. 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. I break in to get back at God.”

According to the complaint, a worker at Bangladesh Hindu Maunder Temple arrived on March 21 to find that three donation boxes had been pried open and cash was missing. Police later matched fingerprints on the box to Woznik.

St. James Episcopal Church was burglarized three times, according to Brown. The first incident was on March 24, when an administrator found that the church office door had been pried open and that a lockbox kept in a filing cabinet and containing approximately $1,800 in cash was missing, as well as the key that unlocked the file cabinet.

On April 3, a priest at the same church found that a side door was open and a Canon digital camera was missing, and someone had turned off the circuit breaker. Finally, on April 10, the same priest found that a window was broken and several checks had been taken from the church’s checkbook.

Woznik had also turned off security cameras and Wi-Fi in the church, but not before the cameras had captured an image of him.

Woznik allegedly burglarized the other two churches on April 10 as well. A board member of St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church went to the church and found that a gold-plated drawer used for communion and the church’s corporate seal embosser were missing.

A priest at Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians (St. Mary’s of Winfield) went to the church on April 10 and found that a window on the church office door was broken and the office ransacked. A donation box also had pry marks on it and a hammer was found on the floor next to the box. A review of video surveillance footage allegedly showed a man, later identified as Woznik, inside the church on the previous evening and walking around the chapel and using a hammer to pry open the donation box.

Upon his arrest, Woznik admitted to stealing $20 from Blessed Virgin Mary.

Woznik was charged with third-degree burglary as a hate crime, fourth-degree grand larceny as a hate crime, second-degree forgery, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, fourth-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime, petit larceny as a hate crime and possession of burglar’s tools.

If found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

He was also wanted for burglary in Orange County, Florida, and is being arraigned on a Florida fugitive from justice charge in which he is wanted for the crimes of burglary of a structure, third-degree grand theft and criminal mischief.

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