Woman accused of stealing from another's purse at church


One of the churches hit by the thief is Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in northwest Houston, say police. But it's the video from another church that investigators want you to watch closely.

Sheriff's deputies believe she has targeted victims across the city and as far away as Galveston -- and in a place those victim's least expected it.

Cynthia Gonzalez, 43, also known as Cynthia Martinez, is not new to the criminal justice system. Her rap sheet goes back 20 years. But the doors she's suspected of passing through now are even surprising to investigators.

"It's rare that you see this type of surveillance video," Harris County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Christina Garza said.

Deputies suspect Martinez is the woman in a video during a March service at a Houston church. While she's a little restless as she sits down, she appears to be participating in the service. About seven minutes later, she moves behind her victim, even looking her in the eye and exchanging signs of peace at one point.

"It's very rare that you actually see a suspect play the part during a church service," Garza said.

And then right before the victim goes to take communion, she moves her purse from on top of the pew seat to underneath it, giving the suspect better reach, and that's when investigators believe Martinez grabbed the wallet.

"Within an hour or so, she is out at area retailers spending that money, with credit cards, fraudulent checks and cash," Garza said.

Martinez has several past charges of theft, forgery and credit card abuse. She's even charged with taking a wallet from a woman's purse at a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo event earlier this year.

"At that church, there are at least three, but we do know she has been throughout the city, throughout the county, and even as far as Galveston," Garza said.

But as many times as investigators believe she's been to church, it seems the one thing she isn't taking with her from the service is the message.

Charges related to the case seen on video are still pending.

Victims who may have had their property stolen while at church are urged to call the Harris County Sheriff's Office's burglary and theft unit at 713-967-5770.

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