Thousands of dollars in donations stolen from Palo Alto church collection baskets


Thousands of dollars were stolen from collection baskets at a Palo Alto church after a service Sunday afternoon, police said.

The theft at Cornerstone Community Church, 701 E. Meadow Drive, happened sometime between 12:45 p.m. and 1 p.m., Sept. 11, police Sgt. James Reifschneider said.

It's not clear how much money was stolen, but on an average Sunday the church can receive between $8,000 and $10,000 in cash and check contributions, he said.

During the service, baskets were passed around to churchgoers to place their monetary donations and brought to the front of the sanctuary, he said.

Once the service ended, the clergy greeted and socialized with parishioners at rear of the church, then went back inside where they found the collections baskets were empty, Reifschneider said.

No one witnessed the theft, but church staff members believe the suspect was an unfamiliar, suspicious man who stayed for the service, the sergeant said.

The man asked staff unusual questions, including whether there were additional services that day, according to Reifschneider.

He was seen loitering around the church after the service ended while most people were leaving, according to the sergeant.

The man was also seen exiting through a side door as opposed to the rear door where most parishioners walk out, Reifschneider said.

The suspect is described as an Asian man between 35 and 40 years old, standing 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 130 to 140 pounds. He had black hair and was clean-shaven, Reifschneider said.

The man wore a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans, according to Reifschneider.

Police told church staff to inform their parishioners to monitor who passed their check donation, the sergeant said.

Anyone with information on the theft is asked to call police dispatch at 650-329-2413. Those who wish to remain anonymous may send an email to or send a text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

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2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Are other churches in the area changing their collection systems?

5 people like this
Posted by Spiritual
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Resident, of course not. The whole idea of the collection basket is peer pressure. Otherwise, churches would just have a drop box in the church somewhere. Or as the Mormons do it, have a flat fee taken from their paychecks. Usually churches have someone watching the basket being passed around. Seems really weird that someone could leave with it without anyone noticing. [Portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 6:51 pm

I would imagine that many of our local churches have fairly large collections each week, but I would also imagine that most collections are done online or by check.

However, this church does appear to have been too trusting leaving the collection at the front of the church without taking it straight to an office somewhere.

The church can only estimate how much they lost based on weekly averages. I expect those who contributed by check were informed that they should put a stop on their check.

Desperation shows lots of different methods but I would hope that all local churches are now a little more careful each week. The old cliche that God helps those who help themselves should not apply here!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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