East Rochester man accused of 19 cigarette burglaries

East Rochester, N.Y. — A 40-year-old East Rochester man has been charged with third degree burglary, third degree criminal mischief and fourth degree grand larceny, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Robert T. Lee Jr., 40, of Magnolia Avenue, was charged recently after a burglary of Di Prima’s Mobil on Fairport Road in Perinton.

Lee is a suspect in 19 cigarette burglaries that spanned Monroe, Wayne and Ontario counties since May. Police say he has admitted to, or was implicated in, at least 19 burglaries totalling more than $12,700 in cigarettes and $8,000 in charges from broken glass doors.

Robert T. Lee Jr.

Robert T. Lee Jr.

Both the East Rochester and New York State Police participated in a multi-jurisdictional task force, which began in May.

Though it is not yet known which burglaries Lee has admitted involvement with, Monroe County saw a bigger trend. Cigarette thefts spiked this summer, particularly after the July 1 $4.35 excise tax enacted by Gov. David Paterson. Cpl. John Helfer, of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, said the county had not seen an uptick in thefts — however, of the 18 cigarette burglaries that happened in 2010 before Aug. 15, nearly half occurred in July, alone.

The thefts are coming in two ways:a “smash and grab” or by confusing the cashier. In “smash and grabs,” suspects have been seen smashing front windows or doors with hammers, rocks or by kicking the glass. The burglar will then enter the store, knowing the alarm will be activated, and grab dozens of packs of cigarettes, leaving before deputies can respond to the store.

Recently, stores have been seeing a case where the cashier becomes confused. A person will enter the store and ask for multiple packs or cartons of cigarettes. He or she will abruptly ask for an additional item, and when the clerk has his or her back turned to retrieve the item for sale, the suspect will run from the store with the packs or c a r t o n s that were left on the counter. The thefts, which are targeting convenience stores where cigarette sales are a big draw, have focused on one brand, in general – Newport cigarettes.

A sample of some thefts from the summer. It is not yet known of which thefts Lee is being accused.

In Penfield: More than 100 packs and an additional $1, 200 in cigarettes and tobacco items have been taken from gas stations and convenience stores in Penfield since late May.

In Webster: There have been many cases of a man entering convenience stores asking for cartons of cigarettes, and then asking for another item after the cashier has rang up the initial purchase, but not before he pays.The Webster Police Department has two active arrest warrants out for the suspect.

In Irondequoit: On July 17, two convenience stores were hit with thefts.A man entered the A-Plus convenience store and asked for 15 packs of Newport cigarettes and then asked for cigars. The man took the cigarettes and ran from the store. Later, the same man entered the Kwik-Fill and asked for three cartons of Newport cigarettes. He then asked for chewing tobacco and ran from the store. The man was described as in his mid-20s, mixed race, with “disfiguring” scars on the lower half of his face.

In Brighton: A male burglar wearing a black winter jacket, blue flannel pants, black hooded sweatshirt and a mask over his face broke the window of the Rite Aid on White Spruce Boulevard on May 9. He stole 40 packs of Newport cigarettes.

In East Rochester: Newcomb Market on North Main Street was broken into on July 2. Deputies report the front door was kicked in and $900 in cigarettes were stolen. Deputies say the incident was identical to recent Hess burglaries spanning the area. Later that month, a man broke into a gas station on West Commercial Street and stole 100 packs of Newport cigarettes, valued at $959 on July 25. The front glass door was shattered. The suspect was wearing a black ski mask. The suspect in both cases was seen in a mid-’90s mini-van.

In Pittsford: The Hess on Monroe Avenue was broken into at 3:08 a.m. July 18. The masked burglar, smashed the front window with a hammer and stole 40 packs of Newport cigarettes. In Henrietta: A suspect stole 47 packs of Newport cigarettes from the Delta Sonic on West Henrietta Road on July 25, after breaking the door with a cinder block. Three days later, the front door of the Pit Stop Gas Station was smashed and 35 packs of Newport cigarettes were stolen.

source: mpnnow.com

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