Mission Hills church investigating who is behind collection basket theft

Mission Hills church investigating who is behind collection basket theft

LOMPOC, Calif. - Father Joy Lawrence Santos follows the same routine every Sunday, but something different happened recently.

Father Lawrence says someone stole the collection basket money from the Queen of Angels church after mass on November 5th.

A member of the clergy believes they saw someone walk out of the Sacristy that morning with a trash bag.

"The theory is the guy must have dropped it [in the trash] and then took the trash bag - which is of course very strange for a guy or a person to be taking the trash bag at that time of the day," Father Lawrence explained.

But then to make things even more strange, this past Sunday they say the thief came back.

"He brought back the checks and put them [in the collection box] so when I opened the back yesterday after the 8 o'clock mass, there were lots of checks," said Father Lawrence.

While the checks have returned, the cash is still missing.

It's unclear how much cash there was in the basket, but Father Lawrence says the congregation for the 10 o-clock Sunday mass typically gives close to $2,500 worth of cash and checks each week.

Longtime congregation member Solidad Masicampo says her husband writes checks to the church every week.

She's relieved the checks are back, but hopes the person responsible returns the rest of the money, telling us: "I don't know anyone that can feel very good about taking money from anywhere but especially for the church."

The church is now working on getting their security system up and running to help monitor who goes in and out. 

Father Lawrence says there will be forgiveness if the person behind this theft comes forward.

"If he has the courage to do that yes - there will always be forgiveness of course - but stealing is stealing," Lawrence said.

Father Lawrence hopes this serves as a warning to other churches in the area to be more careful.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

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