Fake priest preyed on churches across US in string of robberies, California cops say

A man posing as a priest and wanted by authorities across the country on accusations of robbing churches has been arrested in California, officials said.

Malin Rostas, 45, of New York, was arrested by deputies April 10 shortly after attempting to burglarize a Moreno Valley church, according to an April 11 news release from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities said the black sedan Rostas was driving matched the description of a vehicle associated with several reported burglaries.

Rostas was booked at the Robert Presley Detention Centr on an outstanding felony warrant in Pennsylvania, the sheriff’s office said.

He is accused of stealing $15,500 in cash from a home in Adams County in May 2022, WGAL reported.

Rostas’ ruse involved him posing as a Catholic priest named “Father Martin” in order to gain access to offices and rectories from which he would steal money or valuables, according to the Diocese of Sacramento.

According to church officials, Rostas, who used the alias Moyse Lingurar when he wasn’t referring to himself as Father Martin, did his homework in order to convince the clergy of his identity.

He was able to convince staff members that he was a priest by researching the targeted parish and learning the names of priests and other church personnel.

Authorities suspect Rostas is responsible for stealing $900 from a church in Queens, New York, $500 from a church in Houston and more than $1,700 from a church in Oregon, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Additional charges will be filed for the attempted burglary in Moreno Valley,” officials said.

McClatchy News was unable to locate attorney information for Rostas.

The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with additional information is asked to contact Moreno Valley Sheriff’s Station at (951) 486-6700 or their local law enforcement agency.

Moreno Valley is about a 70-mile drive east of Los Angeles.

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