By Bill Parry
A homeless man who broke into several of the borough’s houses of worship because he was “mad at God” pleaded guilty last week to burglary as a hate crime and other charges, the Queens District Attorney’s Office announced last week.
Joseph Woznik, 24, admitted he was behind a spree of break-ins, taking cash, checks and damaging various items belonging to religious institutions located in Flushing, Woodside and Elmhurst.
Woznik pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary as a hate crime and fourth-degree possession of stolen property, among other charges, the DA said Sept. 27. Acting Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry A. Kron accepted the defendant’s plea and set sentencing for Oct, 13. Woznik faces 1½ to 4½ 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,” Queens DA Richard 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.”
The first burglary took place March 21 at the Bangladesh Hindu Mandir Temple in Flushing, according to Brown. A temple employee discovered that three donation boxes had been forced open, and that the cash inside was missing. Fingerprints lifted from the donation boxes were a match for Woznik, Brown said.
St. James Episcopal Church in Flushing was burglarized three times. The church’s office door was pried open March 24 and nearly $1,600 was taken, according to the charges. On April 3, Woznik again gained entry to the church, forced open an office door and ransacked the room and a digital camera was taken, according to the charges.
Woznik broke into the same office April 10 and three checks from the church’s checkbook were taken. At the time of his arrest, two checks from the church were in Woznik’s possession along with a receipt from a pawn shop for the camera, according to Brown.
Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians (St. Mary’s of Winfield) in Woodside was hit April 10, and Woznik was caught on surveillance video where donation boxes were forced open, the DA said. At the time of his arrest, Woznik admitted to taking a $20 bill from underneath a statue of the Virgin Mary, according to Brown.
St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Elmhurst was also hit.
When Woznik was arrested, according to the charges, he told police that, “I’m mad at God. 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.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr