- Associated Press - Monday, September 16, 2019

ATLANTA (AP) - Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have charged four people in what they say was a brazen theft ring that stole more than $80,000 in cash and jewelry from Hindu and Buddhist temples around the country.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Monday the four defendants posed as tourists seeking information about the temples’ customs and practices. While temple staff were distracted, they took cash and jewelry, sometimes snatching gold chains from deities.

The defendants are accused of stealing from temples in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia and New Jersey. Prosecutors say three of them - Valer Iazmin Varga, Robert-Auras Adam and Ana-Loredana Adam - are Romanian nationals. They each face conspiracy and stolen goods charges.

Emails to attorneys for the three were not immediately returned. Court records show Varga pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

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