National News

UPDATE: Imposter Priest Who Robbed Catholic Churches Nationwide Arrested in California

Police in California say they arrested a man suspected of posing as a priest to gain access to, and rob, several Catholic parishes across the country. | (Photos: Diocese of Brooklyn; Riverside County Sheriff)

By The Tablet Staff

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Police in Riverside, California, have arrested a man posing as a priest who allegedly victimized churches across the country, including in the Diocese of Brooklyn, where one church was robbed of $900.

Over the past several months, multiple Catholic parishes in New York and Texas both reported encountering a man who in some cases identified himself as “Father Martin” and who managed to gain access to private parish areas and steal hundreds of dollars.

On Thursday, April 11, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department announced that they had apprehended the man suspected of perpetrating those scams. 

The sheriff’s department said that on Wednesday, April 10, they had located a car matching the description of the vehicle connected to the robberies. 

“The driver of the vehicle, identified as Malin Rostas, 45, of New York, was taken into custody for an outstanding felony warrant out of Pennsylvania for burglary,” the department said.

Local investigators “discovered Rostas was ‘Father Martin’ and had just attempted to burglarize a local church,” the sheriff’s office said. Rostas was booked on the outstanding warrant, and he may face additional charges with the attempted burglary. 

The sheriff’s office “believes there may be additional burglary victims,” adding that the investigation of the case is ongoing.

The scammer was most recently reported at several New York-area parishes; at one he succeeded in stealing nearly $900.

In recent months, the scammer attempted to access a Queens parish as well as the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville’s motherhouse on Long Island.

Rostas allegedly gained entry into the rectory of American Martyrs Church in Bayside, on March 3.

According to Father Peter Rayder, pastor of the parish, the man appeared moments before the 12:30 p.m. Sunday Mass on March 3.

Msgr. Edward Doran, a retired priest who helps on Sunday, was preparing to celebrate Mass when the man entered and identified himself as a visiting priest.

Msgr. Doran told Father Rayder details of his brief conversation with the man.

“He said, ‘I spoke to Father Peter — I’m staying in the rectory — but I need access to get my alb to concelebrate Mass,’” Father Rayder said Msgr. Doran opened the door for the man, and continued preparing for Mass.

Rostas went up the stairs and allegedly stole $900 from Father Rayder’s bedroom. He then escaped in the same vehicle that the Riverside authorities described last week.

The suspect was also found on video at the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville’s motherhouse on Long Island on March 1. He failed to get entry, even after allegedly saying he was a visiting priest.

The NYPD put out a national alert after the incidents in the area.

Meanwhile, last fall the suspect showed up at six different parishes in the Diocese of Dallas and also managed to steal several hundred dollars from a Houston parish, authorities said.