Poor box pilferer pinched

Leave a comment
Holy Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Richmond Hill, where Reverend Father Francis Colamaria caught Joseph Azzurro attempting to steal from a poor box.THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman
Holy Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Richmond Hill, where Reverend Father Francis Colamaria caught Joseph Azzurro attempting to steal from a poor box.

Thou shalt not steal.

One man’s sinful behavior landed him in some hot water when a parish priest caught him trying to pilfer the poor box.

On Christmas Eve, 2011, Reverend Father Francis Colamaria, overseer of Holy Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Richmond Hill, heard loud scraping noises coming from inside the house of worship. Upon investigation, Colamaria discovered Joseph Azzurro standing adjacent to a collection box. When the intruder saw Colamaria, he fell to his knees, saying “Bless me Father for I have sinned.”

Colamaria observed Azzurro carrying a backpack, inside of which he saw a bent wire hanger. Prior to the incident, several bent wire hangers had been retrieved throughout the church.

According to the district attorney, Colamaria recognized the individual and had frequently seen him in close proximity to the poor boxes, often during weekends and religious holidays, when donation amounts generally spike.

Azzurro was arrested on February 23. He has since been released without bail.

The charges against Azzurro include possession of burglar’s tools, criminal mischief in the fourth degree and attempted petit larceny.

According to the DA, Colamaria said that he noticed weekly shortages among the church’s eight donation boxes averaging $100 between the months of May and December, 2011. Colamaria also claimed that several of the boxes appeared to have been tampered with, including one with a broken lock.

In 2000, Azzurro violated three times an order of protection that had been set against him by Nativity Roman Catholic Church after he attempted to steal money from a collection box there. These actions earned Azzurro a prison sentence of one-and-a-half to three years. Azzurro was pinched yet again in 2002 for burglary at St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church and served more prison time.