Priest imposter who allegedly robbed Queens church arrested in California after nationwide hunt

The crook who allegedly posed as a priest to rob an Oakland Gardens church last month was arrested in California after a national alert was put out by the NYPD.
Photo courtesy of the NYPD

A bald-headed burglar who allegedly posed as a priest to gain entry to the rectory at American Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in Oakland Gardens—before robbing a real reverend of $900—was arrested in California earlier this month.

Malin Rostas, 45, of New York, was arrested by deputies from the Moreno Valley Sheriff’s Station, which is part of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, on an outstanding burglary warrant out of Pennsylvania. Rostas, believed to be a serial thief, was wanted by jurisdictions across the nation.

Photo courtesy of the NYPD

The NYPD put out a national alert last month that helped lead to his capture. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which oversees Queens churches, alerted the 111th Precinct in Bayside to the imposter who posed as “Father Martin.” On Mar. 13, video surveillance showed him politely conversing with a priest at American Martyrs Church before following him into the rectory at 73-43 Bell Blvd. next to the church on Utopia Parkway.

Once inside, Rostas robbed the 65-year-old clergyman of $900 in cash from his unlocked bedroom.

John Quaglione, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, said it was the same man who robbed St. Thomas Aquinas in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn and made similar attempts in Suffolk County, Texas, Pennsylvania and California, where he was taken into custody. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Office warned that there could be additional burglary victims and the investigation remains ongoing.

“There is such a wide variety of financial scams carried out in different ways with different targets, but how low can you go to pose as a priest and rob churches?” Quaglione said after Rostas was booked at the Robert Presley Detention Center on the outstanding warrant. Rostas is a Romanian national who is also known as Moyse Lingurar.

“We thank the NYPD Community Affairs Division for putting out a national alert, which was key to his arrest,” Quaglione said. “The suspect’s fraudulent path stretched from Texas, to Pennsylvania, to New York, to California, where he was picked up by Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. It is reassuring to know this guy who preyed on clergy and churches has been apprehended.”