A Santa Ana woman already convicted of vandalizing Buddhist temples in Orange County was charged with hate crime and vandalism charges on Friday in connection with another series of similar attacks — leaving about $100,000 in damages to statues at two temples, according to the O.C. District Attorney’s Office.
Trang Pham, 49, was on early release from county jail when she allegedly disfigured a number of statues at temples in Santa Ana and Garden Grove earlier this month, according to prosecutors.
She allegedly used a rock to break off the hands and fingers of at least six of the statues at the Huong Tich Buddhist temple in Santa Ana, Deputy District Attorney Paul Chrisopoulos said. She vandalized them on three different occasions — Aug. 8, Aug. 14 and on Tuesday, prosecutors said.
She allegedly also vandalized the Phuc Quana Buddhist temple in Garden Grove on Tuesday, again breaking the hands and fingers off at least three religious statues there, according to Chrisopoulos.
Costs from the damage Pham allegedly left on all of the Buddhist statues amounts to about $100,000, prosecutors said in a news release.
Shortly after the two incidents on Tuesday, Pham was taken into custody by police. A day later, authorities said she had left about $25,000 in damages to Huong Tich Buddhist temple alone.
At the time of her arrest, Pham was on early release from county jail after being convicted of vandalism and hate crime charges in connection with other attacks on Buddhist temples, officials said. Those prior convictions played into the DA’s office’s decision to again pursue hate crime charges against her, as it showed a past intent of targeting Buddhist places of worship, according to Chrisopoulos.
However, aside from saying Pham is targeting a specific religious group, the DA’s office would not go into further detail about her possible motive in allegedly attacking the temples.
After pleading guilty to hate crime charges for stealing three gold statues from a Santa Ana Buddhist temple last year, Pham was sentenced to two years in county jail on July 5, 2017, officials said. She was released early with credit for time served.
A little over two years earlier, Pham allegedly threw bottles at statues at the Huong Tich Temple between December 2014 and January 2015, according to authorities. She was convicted and sentenced for vandalism in connection with those incidents.
According to the O.C. DA, Pham was treated at a state hospital for about six months after she was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial.
If Pham is convicted of the current charges against her, prosecutors are hoping the maximum sentence — 12 years in state prison — will be considered by the judge, according to Chrisopoulos. He believes the maximum sentence should be taken into consideration since Pham already has a record of hate crimes targeting Buddhist temples and hasn’t received the maximum sentence in the past.
While prosecutors did not release more information about a motive, the O.C. Register previously reported that detectives believe Pham attacked the Huong Tich Buddhist Temple because of a “personal issue” she had with an individual associated with the temple. If that’s the case, it’s still unclear why she allegedly targeted the other temple in Garden Grove.
The Santa Ana and Garden Grove police departments are still investigating the case.