ONLINE EXCLUSIVE - Man gets 11 years in prison for stealing cigarettes

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:01 PM

A 35-year-old man will serve a local 11-month prison term for stealing about 240 cartons of cigarettes from a New London grocery store last year. But before being punished for this crime, he must finish his sentence for a conviction in Medina County.

James R. Samkas II made a written confession in March about the Sept. 15, 2007 burglary at the West Main Street business. New London Police Chief Mark Holden, at the time, said the defendant admitted to being with "someone else, but he would not disclose who his accomplice was."

"I'm not sure we caught the others, but we caught this guy," Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said.

A Huron County grand jury indicted Samkas on theft as well as breaking and entering.

On Nov. 20, he was sentenced to 11 months in prison. Leffler said the culprits stole between $5,000 and $6,000 worth of cigarettes and did about $800 worth of damage to the business front door.

The business surveillance system showed two suspects who were wearing hoods. Holden has estimated the two men were in the store only two minutes after breaking the glass on the front door.

Investigators suspect Samkas worked with four people who have committed similar "smash and grab" incidents from as far north as Cleveland to as far south as Muskingum County, Holden said in March. Leffler described Samkas as a "long-time criminal (who has made) several trips to prison."

Samkas will serve his local sentence after he finishes a five -year term from Medina County, also for stealing cigarettes. He was convicted of 17 counts of breaking and entering.

In other court news, Clabe Taylor, 35, of Sandusky, was sentenced to three years in prison Nov. 20 for trafficking in cocaine. The conviction stems from a May incident at a north side Norwalk motel involving METRICH, a multi-county drug task force.

"Norwalk police basically ran the operation," Leffler said, mentioning that officers put a camera in the motel room to videotape the drug deal with a confidential informant.

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