By Edwin Folven, 1/03/2013
Gold and silver-plated pieces are valued at approximately $50,000
Thirty-seven gold and silver-plated chalices, crosses and other accoutrements used in religious services were stolen on Dec. 22 during a burglary at the Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church in Hollywood.
Investigators have released photographs of some of the stolen items with the hope that the thief may have tried to sell them, or that someone might know where they are. Lt. Marc Reina, with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division, said investigators believe the items were stolen overnight between Dec. 22 and 23, and that it is uncertain whether the burglar broke in, or entered the church during a service held the previous day and then hid until the congregation and church employees left the building. The items were all taken from the altar area of the church, where only high-ranking clergy members are allowed. The congregation has approximately 1,000 members, with around 300 people attending regular services.
“There wasn’t really any sign of forced entry, so we are not exactly sure whether someone came in during the night or if it was someone who remained in the building,” Reina said. “We have some video from a business about a block away that showed an individual walking by with a large duffel bag, so we are looking for that suspect.”
Father Alexander Lebedeff, the rector at the parish, said the theft has upset the congregation, many of whom are from the Russian communities in Hollywood and West Hollywood. The church, founded in 1930, is located at 5432 Fernwood Ave., near Fountain and Western avenues. He said the stolen items are used in religious ceremonies such as communion, and on holidays such as Easter. Lebedeff said the congregation has held religious services using other accoutrements since the burglary occurred, but he hopes the stolen items will be found soon.
“I don’t believe it was a hate crime. I think the perpetrator saw some shiny things and decided to steal them,” Lebedeff said. “Nothing like this has ever happened before at the church.”
The rector added that the stolen items are valued at more than $50,000. One of the four missing chalices is an antique that originated from Russia, and although it is valued at $20,000, Lebedeff described it as being “priceless.” One of the silver-plated chalices is valued at $10,000, he said. Additionally, the thief stole gold-plated plates and small cups, and a silver-plated container used to hold water for baptisms.
“They are all instruments we use in our most important services,” Lebedeff said. “Nothing was made from precious metals. They were all plated, but they are very important to the congregation.”
The surveillance camera footage, which can be viewed at www.lapdonline.org, is very grainy, and it could not be determined whether the individual is male or female. The individual carrying the duffel bag is approximately 20 to 35 years old, five feet seven to five feet nine inches tall and was wearing a dark colored jacket and pants.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Jackson, with the LAPD’s Hollywood Division Burglary Unit, at (213)972-2928. Tips can also be made using the LAPD’s 24-hour hotline at (877)LAPD247.