Man steals donation boxes from Pinellas mosque

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Pinellas Sheriff's deputies want to know who would rip off a place of worship.

They say surveillance video shows a man breaking into donation boxes at the Islamic Society of North Pinellas, and stealing possibly hundreds of dollars.

"We were kind of shocked to tell you the truth," said the chairman of the mosque's board, Alwi Alsaqaf.

He says the man had prayed that day, but was unfamiliar to them.

Deputies say he seemed to grab a tool from the ground outside, using it to break into the boxes, and stealing up to $400.

"At any place of faith, it is money for the needy," said Alsaqaf.

Deputies say he took off in a car that was seen leaving on surveillance footage.

"It is a particularly clear video," said Cpl. Daniel DiFrancesco of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. "That is not always the case."

People at the same mosque say the same man came back on Wednesday, seemingly casing the place, but leaving quickly after realizing that the donation boxes had either been removed or replaced with stronger ones.

They called deputies again.

"He was looking for money, 100 percent, he was looking for money," said Alsaqaf.

Particularly tragic, says the mosque's Imam, Abdel Monel Dobal, is that the mystery man could have just knocked on the front door.

They often give financial, legal or medical assistance.

"If he is Muslim or non-Muslim, it doesn't matter. If somebody needs something, he comes to the mosque, asks for help," Alsaqaf said. "It is very painful actually to see something like that happen in the mosque. Mosque means this is a holy place."

Deputies say one interesting thing is he had a bandage on his right arm and hand.