Officials are investigating the vandalism of several statues at a Buddhist temple in Santa Ana, and believe a woman caught on surveillance video in the incident could be someone who has previously targeted the place of worship.
Huong Tich Temple, at 4821 W. Fifth St., has suffered about $25,000 worth of damage after marble statues in its courtyard were defaced twice this month, on Aug. 5 and 9, said Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Police have identified Trang Tau Pham, a woman previously convicted of vandalizing the same temple, as a person of interest in the case.
Pham has a documented record of attacking multiple Buddhist temples, according to Bertagna.
While detectives haven't confirmed that Pham is the woman with dark-colored hair seen on surveillance footage this month, Bertagna said she does have a similar appearance.
"At this point, based on the characteristics of the suspect in the video, they match those of this individual," he said. "We can't say that it's her, but she is a person of interest for us."
In both the most recent incidents, a woman was seen using some sort of instrument to damage a total of eight statues at the temple. The previous incidents were captured on security cameras as well.
In 2016, Phan was arrested and accused of stealing three statues from the Chua Truc Lam Yen Tu Buddhist temple, located at 1924 W. Second St. She subsequently pleaded guilty to charges including a hate crime, malicious damage and theft, Bertagna said.
Phan was released from custody last July after serving about 1.4 years in jail, the corporal said.
Before that, she had also been sentenced for vandalizing the Huong Tich Temple by throwing bottles at the statues between Dec. 16, 2014 and Jan. 6, 2015.
Because authorities don't have a residence on record for Phan, they're seeking the public's help in locating her so that she can be interviewed.
"Obviously, this is a place where people go to worship their faith," Bertagna said. "It's an important case to us. It's important to our community. We need it to stop."
According to the corporal, Phan frequents the west end of town. Anyone with information on her whereabouts can contact Santa Ana Police at 714-245-8665.