Holy smokes! Cigarette bandit hits 22 times in Eastern NC - WNCN: News, Weather

Holy smokes! Cigarette bandit hits 22 times in Eastern NC

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NASHVILLE, N.C. -

Someone in Eastern North Carolina is stealing cigarettes at a rapid rate, leading the Nash County Sheriff's Office to ask for help in finding the culprit.

This has now happened 22 times, with the incidents stretching across Nash, Wilson, Franklin, Johnston and even Pitt counties. Police think a recent robbery in Farmville was connected.

Officials aren't sure if the robberies are the work of just one person. In the video, the person appears to be a white male, but Lt. Todd Wells of the Nash County Sheriff's Office said officials aren't sure because the thief is wearing a ski mask, gloves and coat, and only part of the neck is visible.

But the patterns are similar, where a thief grabs a large amount of cigarettes and then flees. Wells said each time, the robber goes in the front door after the store is closed and snatches a large amount of cartons of cigarettes. Most of the time, the robber takes between 20 and 60 cartons, but one time snatched 106 cartons.

The robberies have been happening since April. Wells said the bandit has hit about 10 times in Nash County, and police aren't sure if the thief is re-selling the cigarettes.

In all cases, the bandit only steals cigarettes.

Wells has been with Nash County's Sheriff's Office for 19 years and said the number of times these break-ins are taking place, are happening at an alarming rate.

"This is just coming back and it seems with a vengeance," Wells said. 

Shequeta Freeman knows about the cigarette bandit all too well. She's a cashier at Murphy's Express in Nashville and said the bandit robbed them twice while the store was closed.

"Last time they tried to get in, and threw a rock."

That's when Freeman said the store added more security and changed the locks.

"I'm trying to get out of here before the lights cut off that way, so I won't be in the middle of anything," said Freeman.

Investigators said the bandit only steals cigarette cartons and nothing else because of the huge return.

"Say they were to theoretically break in and steal 50 cartons from every store. You say, 50 times 21 times 150," said Wells.

That's theoretically $157,500 in profit, if you sell them in the north where cigarettes are much more expensive. That's why investigators said the bandits keep coming back.

The Nash County Sheriff's Department released a video of the suspect, and is asking anyone with information to call (252)459-4121 or (252)459-1570.

Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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