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Erie County sheriff's investigators have arrested a Buffalo man and charged him with stealing thousands of dollars from local jewelers by passing himself off as a U.S. Army captain whose van was stolen here earlier this month.

Identifying himself as Capt. Jack Snyder, the impostor used Snyder's passport to obtain quick lines of credit from jewelers and then walked off with their merchandise, according to Investigator Ronald Suchocki.

The detective said the man made a convincing Army officer.

"He went inside the jewelry stores with a portable phone," Suchocki said. "While the clerk is ringing up the sales, the phone rings, and he says: 'Yes colonel . . . But I'm on leave . . . I can't go to Guatemala now.' "

Accused of impersonating Capt. Snyder was Anthony Cornelius Clark, 25, of 26 Pansy Place, identified by authorities as a convicted felon with a lengthy record. Sheriff's detectives placed a dozen charges against him, including felony forgery and grand larceny charges.

Suchocki and his partner, Senior Investigator Chester Krupczyk, have been looking for the impostor since June 5, when they got a call from a jeweler that a man identifying himself as Snyder had worked the scam at the store.

The real Snyder and his family were on a cross-country trip from California to a new duty station in North Carolina when their van was stolen June 2 from the Journey's End Motel in Amherst. The van was recovered the following day in Buffalo, but missing were most of the valuable items, including Snyder's uniforms and passport.

Clark is black and Snyder is white, but Suchocki said Clark was able to use the passport by having his picture taken while wearing Snyder's full dress Army uniform and substituting it for Snyder's photo on the
passport. Suchocki said credit checks showed that "Snyder" applied for credit in five local jewelers, and investigators circulated composite drawings of the suspect.

After Kay's Jewelers in the Galleria Mall called Wednesday to say "Capt. Snyder" had just come in and asked for a credit line, Suchocki drove to the store and just missed him. But he said Clark called while he was there to see if the credit was approved, and he was arrested when he returned to choose his jewels.

Clark is accused of taking merchandise worth $11,000 from Littman Jewelry, Gordon's, Jaccard's and Merksamer's Jewelers. Additional federal charges will be lodged for altering a passport.

Investigators obtained a warrant to search Clark's house and found some of the items missing from the Snyder van, Suchocki said. Investigators from Buffalo, Amherst and Cheektowaga helped with the case.

Authorities also seized Clark's car, a Cadillac, and said he is facing charges involving the theft of $12,000 in jewelry in an earlier case from Schlegel's Jewelry in Clarence. Clark is in the Erie County Holding Center awaiting grand jury action in both theft cases.

Suchocki said Clark had little trouble persuading the stores to give him credit.

"He is clean-cut and relatively polished, but the edges are still a little rough," the detective said. "He was in one jewelry store when a couple came in looking for engagement rings. He started singing to them."

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