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Lackawanna police say burglar targeted same neighborhood spot

Lackawanna police believe they have ended an unusual recent crime spree, after arresting a burglary suspect accused of breaking into his neighborhood gas station a total of six times this month.

Detectives say the accused thief lived so close to the Mobil station on South Park Avenue – less than a quarter mile away – that he’d walk to the scene of the crime and back, carrying duffel bags full of stolen items.

Police charged Joseph F. Damico, 35, of 2618 South Park Ave., with six counts of burglary and nine other charges, following his arrest at a nearby laundromat late Sunday afternoon.

Taken in the six burglaries were a huge quantity of cigarettes, hundreds and hundreds of packs, along with some cash, lottery tickets, smoking paraphernalia, chewing tobacco and energy drinks, police said. The stolen items were worth well over $20,000.

How do police believe the same suspect entered the same station six times?

“He’d climb on the roof, go through the vents and drop down,” Lackawanna Police Capt. Joseph E. Leo said Monday. After stealing a large quantity of cigarettes and other items, the thief would walk out the front door, the captain added.

The gas station was armed with surveillance cameras, but it apparently did not have a functioning alarm until recently, police said. The last break-in occurred Saturday, when the working alarm apparently scared off the intruder.

Detectives described Damico as a four-time convicted felon currently on parole, with plenty of burglary experience.

“He had like a turban on his head and a cut-out ski mask and gloves on,” Leo said. “He’s a professional burglar.”

Police also claimed that the suspect often spent a lengthy time inside the service station, even spending a full hour there once.

“Once he realized after the first couple times that he had time, he’d bring a few duffel bags and fill them up,” Leo said.

Lackawanna police still are looking for a possible accomplice who may have helped the suspect carry the duffel bags from the gas station, although the accomplice apparently didn’t enter the premises.

The break in the case came over the weekend, after Crimestoppers aired details of the burglary spree. Following that airing, a person came forward with information that led police to stake out Damico’s home, under the direction of Capt. Leo, Det. Rodney Pietras and Narcotics Officer Nicholas DeSantis. They arrested the suspect at the laundromat at about 5:50 p.m.

Besides the burglary charges, Damico faces four counts of grand larceny, two counts of petit larceny and single charges of parole violation, criminal mischief and criminal possession of a controlled substance, according to police reports. Police also said that a search warrant carried out at his address led to the recovery of a safe that may have been taken in a burglary at South Park Golf Course two weeks ago.

Along with Damico, police on Sunday charged a companion, Bailey M. Woodworth, 28, with criminal possession of a controlled substance, suboxone strips.

email: gwarner@buffnews.com

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