Members of a small Uniondale church were in a music store Wednesday looking to replace thousands of dollars of stolen equipment when they experienced what the pastor called "a miracle."
Three men were in that same Sam Ash store in Carle Place, trying to cash in on the stolen goods, police said.
Pastor Ada V. Jones, of the New Jerusalem Church of Christ, said, "I really believe God is on our side, and he must have worked a miracle for us."
The alleged thieves had more than $2,800 worth of equipment on a cart -- used speakers, microphones, amplifiers and keyboards, all taken from the church overnight, police said.
The congregation, with fewer than 30 regular members, could ill afford the loss. Jones and two other church members had gone to the store, hoping to be able to replace at least some of the equipment before Sunday church services.
Jones said she saw the men with a pushcart full of equipment but did not immediately know it was from her church. She spoke to one of the men, and he told her that the equipment was from his jazz group, and she responded: "That's nice equipment. What are you asking for it?"
The pastor saw telltale signs and recognized it as what the church had lost. But she tried not to let on that she knew.
Meanwhile, Jeff Galperin, 27, a senior manager at the store, said his staff was almost immediately suspicious.
"Usually, someone will not come in with that large amount of equipment," Galperin said, "equipment for like a school or church."
Galperin said staff members stalled the sellers and called police.
"They came!" Jones said. "It must have been 10 carloads of them -- there were so many."
Smith and Thomas were charged with third-degree burglary and criminal possession of stolen property; Norris was charged with criminal possession of stolen property. They were arraigned Thursday in First District Court, Hempstead.
"At the end of the day, the thieves were arrested . . . the victims got their gear back, the police were happy and we were happy to help out," Galperin said. "In the grand scheme of things . . . it's not always about the sale."
Jones said police told her they had never seen anything like it. They said the incident " 'should increase your faith' . . . I think somebody loves us. I really believe God is on our side."