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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