HOUSTON – A sticky-fingered suspect is accused of swiping property from a woman’s purse when she went up to take communion at a local church, and investigators believe there could be other victims.
According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Cynthia Gonzalez – also known as Cynthia Martinez – frequently preys on parishioners at various churches in the area.
Deputies said they are looking at eight to 10 potential cases involving Gonzalez at five to seven different churches and most of them located in unincorporated parts of Harris County.
"I think what caught all of our eyes is the fact that this took place in a place of worship during the actual service. I’m still shocked, to be honest with you," Lt. Jeff Stauber, of the HCSO Burglary and Theft Division, said.
Charges are pending against her in the most recent incident, and she’s currently out on bond on credit/debit card abuse charges connected to another church theft, investigators said.
Deputies said all of the cases started at the beginning of the year and mostly involve elderly victims.
"It’s definitely calculated. It’s not a spur-of-the-moment. I think there is a plan she follows each time she commits this crime," Stauber said.
In some cases, thousands of dollars were stolen, deputies said.
Three of the crimes took place at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic church on the north side. One victim lost her wallet and within the hour her credit card was used at Radio Shack to buy a laptop.
Gonzalez has a history of financial crimes in Harris and Galveston counties dating back to 1991.
"This is definitely something that people probably don’t think about when you go to the house of worship. You’re not thinking about someone taking your credit cards, IDs or checks," Stauber said.
The suspect lives here in the same quadrant of town as at least one church and one victim. A Harris County deputy who is also a resident in the area said he's been told to keep an eye on Gonzalez.
Harris County investigators are asking any other potential victims who’ve had their property stolen during a church service to call the HCSO Burglary and Theft Division at 713-967-5770.