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Robber won't ID accomplice in $80,000 heist, is sentenced to 7 years

John Billings (Provided by Niagara County Sheriff's Office)

John Billings (Provided by Niagara County Sheriff's Office)

LOCKPORT - John M. Billings Jr., who took part in an armed robbery and shooting last year behind a gas station on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison, the most he could have received.

Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III had said he would consider giving Billings, 32, of Zito Drive, Niagara Falls, a lighter sentence if Billings would identify his accomplice. But Billings would not.

Police said Billings and the other man set up a May 20, 2015 meeting with two men who said they wanted to buy a large quantity of untaxed cigarettes. The meeting occurred behind the Smokin' Joe's gas station on Saunders Settlement Road. The unidentified robber emerged from the woods firing a rifle, and one round struck one of the would-be cigarette buyers, a 48-year-old man, and fractured his ankle. Billings and his associate then robbed the victims of an estimated $80,000 to $84,000 in cash, none of which has been recovered.

The 4 p.m. robbery led to a lockdown during after-school activities at Niagara-Wheatfield High School, which is located across the road from the gas station. Despite a wide-ranging manhunt, Billings was not arrested until a year after the crime.

Billings pleaded guilty Aug. 17 to a reduced charge of attempted second-degree robbery. Murphy also tacked on five years of supervision for Billings after he exits prison.

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