A 24-year-old homeless man pleaded guilty on Thursday to stealing from three Queens churches and a Hindu temple to “get back at God.”
Between March 21 and April 10, Joseph Woznik stole cash, a check book and a digital camera from the institutions, telling officers that he was “mad at God,” according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
He first hit the Bangladesh Hindu Mandir Temple in Elmhurst on March 21. An employee entered the temple that day and noticed that three cash donation boxes were pried open and the cash was missing. Police lifted finger prints from the boxes and matched them to Woznik’s prints.
St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst was burglarized three times, Brown said. On March 24, Woznik stole $1,600 for the church office. He returned on April 3, ransacked the office and stole a digital camera.
One week later, a priest at the church noticed broken glass on the floor. Woznik had broken into the office again and stolen three checks from a checkbook. At the time of his arrest, cops found two of three three checks in the defendants pocket and a receipt from a pawn shop where he sold the camera.
St. Mary’s of Winfield in Woodside was also ransacked on April 10. A priest noticed that a window on the church office door was broken and a donation box was smashed open with a hammer, which was also found on the floor. At the time of his arrest, Woznik also admitted to stealing $20 underneath a Virgin Mary statue at the church.
Woznik also broke a window at St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Elmhurst but fled after he heard an alarm go off.
When he was arrested, Woznik told cops he was tired of “hearing about religion.”
“I’m mad at God,” he said. “I don’t like church no more. I don’t want to deal with religion. I’m sick and tired of hearing about religion. I don’t break into houses, only churches. I break in to get back at God.”
Woznik pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary as a hate crime and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. He also pleaded guilty to second-degree bail jumping to an outstanding warrant issued in Florida in 2016 on burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief charges.
He is ordered back to court on Oct. 13 and faces 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison.
“In pleading guilty, the defendant has admitted he acted with hatred for God when he brazenly broke into the houses of worship,” Brown said. “The defendant sought to enrich himself as well as to strike vengeance on God by stealing from the religious institutions. As a result of these criminal acts, the defendant will go to prison.”