Asia

6 Romanians break into Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Rogers, Arkansas

Voinea Gratiani Miclescu (©Benton County Sheriff's Office)
Voinea Gratiani Miclescu (©Benton County Sheriff’s Office)

A Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Rogers, Benton County, Arkansas, United States was recently burglarized by six Romanian nationalists. The suspects were Marta Chicui, 36, of California, USA, Floarea Miclescu, 39, of California, Voinea Gratiani Miclescu, 40, of California, Francisca Velcu, 43, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, Narcisa Velcu, 43, of Oklahoma City and Claudia Velcu, 50, of Oklahoma City.

Benton County Sheriff’s Office deputies believe that there were other suspects but they have left the area. Voinea is the only male among the six suspects.

Claudia Velcu Benton (©Benton County Sheriff's Office)
Claudia Velcu Benton (©Benton County Sheriff’s Office)

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Four of the female suspects visited the temple for the first time on April 18, 2021, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. They allegedly asked for prayers for a family member that day but they were told that because of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ceremonies were only being done in Vietnamese.

One of the women asked to use the restroom while the others tried to distract a female victim but failed to do so. The suspects became very agitated when they were asked to leave.

Floarea Miclescu Benton (©Benton County Sheriff's Office)
Floarea Miclescu Benton (©Benton County Sheriff’s Office)

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On April 20, 2021, all of the six suspects broke into the temple while the same victim was alone, according to Northwest Arkansas News. The victim hid before leaving the temple safely.

The six suspects fled in a van driven by Voinea. The officers who arrived on scene observed the van driving in the opposite direction and followed the vehicle, which stopped near Posy Mountain Turnoff in Rogers.

Francisca Velcu Benton (©Benton County Sheriff's Office)
Francisca Velcu Benton (©Benton County Sheriff’s Office)

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All of the suspects exited the van and were arrested. Some of them have been connected to other Buddhist temple burglaries in California, Oklahoma and Arizona, USA.

Voinea was charged with robbery, residential burglary, furnishing, possessing or using prohibited articles, fleeing, possession of a controlled substance, criminal mischief, third-degree assault, criminal trespass, no driver’s license and wrong side of road violation. The five female suspects were all charged with accomplice to robbery, accomplice to residential burglary, criminal trespass and third-degree assault.

Marta Chicui Benton (©Benton County Sheriff's Office)
Marta Chicui Benton (©Benton County Sheriff’s Office)

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The six suspects posted bond and were released. They are expected to appear in court before Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green on June 7, 2021, according to Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Thieves target Buddhist temples because of the occupants’ passive nature and practice of accepting donations, Benton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lieutenant Shannon Jenkins told the publication. While some of the thieves are being prayed over inside the temple, their accomplices steal money, jewelry and donation boxes from other rooms.

Narcisa Velcu Benton (©Benton County Sheriff's Office)
Narcisa Velcu Benton (©Benton County Sheriff’s Office)

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Incorporated on June 6, 1881, Rogers was named for Captain Brent Rogers Elliott. Since 2010, Greg Hines has served as the mayor of the city.

Rogers is located in the Ozarks, a physiographic region in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, USA. Walmart was founded in the city on July 2, 1962.

The Buddhist organization Arkansas International Buddhist Temple was founded in 2009. It is based in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

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