Donation-bin thief caught on hidden camera

Man may have robbed multiple churches

LIVONIA, Mich. - Donation bins at St. Edith's Church in Livonia were coming up empty, but not due to a lack of generosity. Livonia police followed a man they suspected of taking the cash for a few days and set up a hidden camera. They say they've caught the man red-handed.

Most see a church sanctuary as a place of quiet solitude and reflection, but one man saw it as an easy target for some money.

The man can be seen on the hidden camera repeatedly looking over his shoulder as he robs the donation bins at the church in the middle of the afternoon.

"He in fact had a tool, which would pull the bills out of the donation box, making it easier for him to do it without appearing to be breaking into anything," said Lt. Tom Goralski.

Livonia police say that a parishioner noticed a vehicle in the parking lot at an odd time of the day back in May. Investigators tracked the license plate to 57-year-old Jeffrey John Bentley, of Howell.

"We followed him into churches and realized he was, in fact, doing that," Goralski said. "And we set up video for future and he came back and did it again."

On Tuesday Bentley targeted St. Edith's again, and this time police watched him walk into the church. When he left they checked the donation bin and it was empty. Bentley was arrested nearby, along with an accomplice, 48-year-old Teresa Ann Pugh.

"It's kind of disturbing how calm he is," Goralski said. "It looks like it's his day job, it's what he does."

Bentley was locked up on a $50,000 cash bond. Police don't believe this church was his first target, and they're investigating another robbery at a church as far away as South Lyon.

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