Supposed Buddhist monk may be involved in distraction thefts

by Tammie Sutherland, City News Toronto, Jan 22, 2015

Toronto, Canada - A man dressed as a Buddhist monk is allegedly taking money from people in the city’s downtown core, and one of the alleged victims appears to be Adam Wylde, host of Blake & Wylde on KiSS 92.5.

Wylde said he was near Yonge and Adelaide streets on Wednesday, parked his car and then went to a bank machine in the TD Tower to get money to pay the vendor.

He said he had a $20 bill in his hand and, while walking on Yonge, was approached by a seemingly nice man dressed in an orange robe. The man walked up to him and gave him a gold-bronze object that read “Work smoothly, lifetime peace,” as he took the money from Wylde.

Then, Wylde said the man put beads on Wylde’s wrist as he pulled out a notebook and wrote down his country of origin and noted a $40 donation, instead of $20, as he gestured at Wylde to give him more money. He also showed him a thank-you message.

“At the time, I actually felt guilty,” Wylde told CityNews. “I mean, I don’t have any more money to give to this guy. Then I thought, wait a second, I don’t even know who you are and what you are doing.

“It was a very strange situation. And I know it sounds silly, but when you’re in that moment, you feel like you are giving to a charity, you feel like it’s a good thing. But it all happened so quickly that I felt just totally distracted and not sure what I was doing.”

As the man was taking the money, Wylde said the supposed monk didn't say anything. Wylde said the man mostly mumbled, pointed at the money and then at the book because it was written in English. He said he gave the impression that he didn't speak English.

"That was the funny thing, he had a book and it flipped down, you know, 'Thank you. You're donating to a great cause in Tibet,' and that was it," Wylde said, adding that there was a picture of Buddha in the book. "When it happens in five seconds, you don't have any time to react ... I was totally taken aback

"I feel really stupid because I should have been a bit forceful, but he was an older man. He was much shorter than I was ... I didn't say anything."

Wylde said he realized walking around with money in his hand wasn’t the best idea.

"I would not walk with $20 in my hand out in the open. I just wouldn't suggest it,” he said.

Wylde said he saw the man approach other people on Yonge and even went up to Wylde again, not recognizing him.

Jian Zong, vice-president of the Tai Bay Buddhist Temple Toronto, said he doesn't think the man is a real monk and heard of similar instances two years ago.

He said police were notified and community members were advised that if anyone "saw that guy again, they [should] report it to the police officer."

Zong said Buddhists receive donations to the temple directly.

"None of the Chinese temples send monks out asking money,” he said.

"Please report it to the police … because that is not what Buddhist monks should do."

Zong said the gold-bronze object, which he said features an image that Buddhists make into a statue, serves as a blessing.

"We can put this in the pocket for blessing, for protection, but we give it up to Buddhist practitioners if they want to," he said, but added that monks don't ask for money in return.

Police said they hadn’t heard about anything recently, but that there were several reported incidents of a man who appeared to be a monk suspected of distraction thefts in Chinatown last summer.

“Last year, we had reports of a similar incident … where somebody was begging for money dressed as a monk,” said Const. David Hopkinson.

“When one of our citizens opened their wallet to give them money, they grabbed either the money or the wallet and just walked off.”

The thefts died down, but police heard about new incidents happening in New York City.

Police are asking any victims to call police so they can investigate.