Birmingham church crook caught on camera

(WXYZ) - Birmingham Police are searching for the thief who walked into a church posing as a parishioner and walked away with money from donation boxes.

Surveillance cameras inside Holy Name Church in Birmingham captured the culprit as he walked into the building just before services Saturday afternoon.

He acted like a member of the church as he walked up to candles and a donation box near the altar. He immediately started prying into the box for cash.

At one point, the man pretended to pray after hearing commotion from the altar and someone started playing the piano.

Then, when he thought no one was looking, he grabbed the money.

Chris Charboneaux was at the altar playing the piano when it happened.

Charboneaux told 7 Action News he was approached by the man who he did not know at the time was stealing from the church.

"He said beautiful music," said Charboneaux.   "I said 'thank you' and he walked away."

It only took minutes for the robber to get the cash out of a second donation box.

Before he left, he walked back to the altar, genuflected slightly, and boldly made the sign of the cross, which can all be see from the video.

"It was very frustrating….  to say the things he did, to make the sign of the cross, and to steal from right under my nose… very frustrating," said Charboneaux.

Charboneaux said he quickly knew something was not right.

The thief, who appeared on several cameras, casually walked out of the building.

Right after he left, Charboneaux could be seen running to get help from the secretary.

"What I did was run out of the church… and I told her to call 9-1-1, we've just been robbed," said Charboneaux. "Then I ran out of the front door to see if I could see him or a car he got away in and I didn't-- he was already gone."

The suspect is described as middle eastern,  5 feet 8 inches tall, about 160 pound with a medium build.

Charboneaux told 7 Action News that the thief smelled strongly of cigarettes. 

Investigators are hoping someone recognizes him and will call the Birmingham Police Department. 

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