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AKRON -- Ohio police nabbed eight suspects in a two-year investigation of cigarette bandits that used a "smash and dash" method to break into convenience stores and gas station to steal tobacco products .
The suspects, five adults and three juveniles, drove stolen cars through plate-glass windows and stepped over the broken glass to steal dozens of cartons of cigarettes, according to the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal.
The group is said to be responsible for more than 100 smash-and-dash break-ins in the past two years. Police claim to have the worst of the so-called "cigarette bandits" behind bars, although additional arrests and charges are expected.
Police say two brothers -- Andre and Lebron Yeager -- were the leaders of the group. The two, who have been charged, allegedly recruited "muscle men," who were strong enough to haul lots of stolen goods and do it quickly," the report said.
The eloborate plan involved stealing cars that could not be traced to a member of the group. One would drive a stolen car, while another drove a legitimate vehicle to the store they had targeted beforehand.
Next, they drove the stolen vehicle through the plate-glass window and then used trash cans from the parking lot to gather as many cartons of cigarettes as they could. They then would drive somewhere to drop off the merchandise, get rid of the stolen vehicle and regroup to divide the proceeds after the loot had been sold.
In addition to the loss of merchandise, Ball said business owners suffered tremendous damage from the vehicles being rammed into their buildings.
Police began piecing together the investigation with evidence they gathered at the crime scenes, including video surveillance tapes, recovered stolen vehicles and fingerprints.
Police said the store owners were noticeably relieved when notified about the arrests. Some of the gas stations and stores were robbed as many as five times, according to the report.
The cigarettes were used primarily for resale on the street, police said. But many thieves also smoked some of the stolen product.