By Conor Greene
Eight Torahs stolen from a central Queens synagogue last month have been recovered
and a live-in custodian has been charged in the thefts, according to police.
Eric Giraldo, 23, who has worked at the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills for the past four years, was charged last week with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. A friend, Alan Lozano, 28, was also charged in the theft after detectives found the stolen Torahs in a closet in his Fresh Meadows apartment.
The theft was discovered during Saturday morning services on August 16. About 60 members were shocked when the curtain over the ark was pulled back to reveal that the Torahs, worth more than $400,000, were missing. Since they’re kept under lock and key, congregants and police immediately suspected it was an inside job. “We couldn’t continue the service,” congregant Herman Saltzman told The Forum at the time. “I saw everybody just standing, bewildered. It was something we had never seen before.”
Authorities are currently in possession of the silver-plated Hebrew texts, but Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said his office hopes have the items returned within a week or two, in time for the High Holy Days later this month.
“Eric was a good employee. I personally liked him and so to me it was really a devastating blow,” the center’s Honorary President Alan Gerard told NY1. “I was sort of his patron and I trusted him with a lot of things.” Giraldo reportedly continued to show up for work in the
days following the theft, according to staff members.
Brown commended “the men and women of the 107th Precinct Detective Squad for their diligence and professionalism in bringing about the arrest of those allegedly responsible for the theft of the sacred Torahs... and for the recovery of those Torahs.
Authorities say Giraldo planned on selling the Torahs. The men face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. During their first appearance in Queens Criminal Court following their arrest on September 4, Giraldo was ordered held on $25,000 bail and Lozano on $10,000, neither of which had been posted as of Tuesday. They are due back in court on September 18.