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Church burglar sentenced to two years in state prison

The ex-convict was on parole when churchgoers witnessed him stealing from a collection box, police say.

January 27, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

A 52-year-old parolee was sentenced Wednesday to two years in state prison for pilfering hundreds of dollars from charitable donation boxes at Catholic churches in Glendale and Burbank.

Peter Manuel Galindro, who has remained in custody since being arrested on Jan. 10, pleaded no contest to two felony counts of burglary. He was also sentenced to three years parole.

Stacked against him was Galindro's criminal record that dates back more than 20 years, said Los Angeles County Deputy District Atty. John Ramseyer.

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"We were requesting four years in state prison," Ramseyer said. "We felt that based on his criminal record, his history, that four years was more appropriate."

In recent months, authorities say Galindro repeatedly targeted donation boxes at Holy Family Catholic Church in Glendale and Saint Finbar Catholic Church in Burbank.

Holy Family parishioners and staff reported seeing Galindro in or around the church multiple times, sometimes riding a bicycle. On one occasion, the parish priest spotted him during Mass, stopped the service and pointed him out to the congregation, Holy Family facilities manager Bill Evans said.

The most recent incident occurred on Dec. 27, when churchgoers saw Galindro enter Holy Family, turn over a large Haiti relief donation box and shake it violently before fleeing. Using collection averages, staff members estimated he stole about $400.

Shortly thereafter, Glendale and Burbank police were able to link Galindro to a similar burglary that took place at Saint Finbar on Sept. 7. Law enforcement had video surveillance footage of a thief stealing cash from a collection box at the Burbank church.

On the same day, a man stole a donation bag containing more than $5,000 from a parked car at Saint Finbar, although Galindro has not been officially tied to that burglary, officials said.

Galindro was arrested on Jan.10 at his mother's home in Los Angeles hours after police released his photo to the public.

As part of his sentence, he was ordered to pay $200 in restitution to Holy Family, and $100 to Saint Finbar.

Although the amount of money stolen was minimal, parishioners at Holy Family Church were shaken by Galindro's brazenness, Evans said.

"Some of the congregation didn't want to come back to the church until he was apprehended," Evans said. "That is the effect he had on the congregation."

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