Women distract Fresno monks, steal safe with $35,000, deputies say

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A group of women is suspected of distracting everyone at a Buddhist temple and stealing a lot of money from one of the monks.

The Fresno Cambodian Buddhist Society temple on Valentine near Clinton Ave. just west of Fresno always welcomes visitors from their community.

So when three women arrived in a gray van Sunday morning and asked to share a meal, Seoey Sambath rounded up his fellow monks.

"Actually he got the invitation to blessing outside," said fellow monk Say Bunthon, who translated for Sambath. "So all of us in this building, in this house, we all left."

Inside the modest living quarters they left behind, Sambath kept just a few items behind his curtain.

After the women left, he noticed a couple important things missing.

"He lost only two things," Bunthon said.

"The safe and the robe?" an Action News reporter asked.

"Yeah," Bunthong replied. "The safe and the robe."

The robe was expensive, but the safe was the bigger loss.

Sambath had about $35,000 in it, which he was saving for a son's wedding in Cambodia.

He also lost his passport and citizenship papers.

Sheriff's deputies say it looks like a classic case of thieves using a distraction to commit their crime.

They suspect the women of this crew are hitting places across the state.

"They stop off in communities - restaurants, jewelry stores, and now we have a sacred temple that's being ripped off," said Tony Botti, a spokesman for the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies are looking at surveillance video they hope can help identify the suspects and lead to their arrest.

The monks say they'll leave the judgment to others.

"I can't say who's bad or who's good because that's for the policemen," Bunthon said. "We cannot judge people like that."

A friend of the temple set up a gofundme page to help the monk recover what he lost that raised about $500 before this story aired on ABC30.
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