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'NEWPORT CIGARETTE BANDIT' FOUND GUILTY

Paul Bridgefourth was convicted Wednesday of robbing two local convenience stores last summer, but the jury cleared him in two similar heists at a third store and an Amherst motel.

Following two hours of deliberations at the end of a weeklong trial before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia, Bridgefourth -- who still faces trial for 12 similar store heists in the Buffalo area last year -- was convicted of first-degree robbery carrying a prison term of up to 25 years.

Bridgefourth, 51, of Holland Place, was dubbed the "Newport cigarette bandit" by area police following his arrest and jailing 12 months ago because of the brand of cigarettes he allegedly took along with cash. He did not testify or present any alibi witnesses.

Bridgefourth was convicted of robbing the Wilson Farms at 601 Prospect Ave. on July 6, 2000, and the Red Apple at 3724 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga, on July 11, 2000.

Prosecutor Eugene P. Adams said he will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark to recommend that Buscaglia impose the 25-year maximum term.

Buscaglia remanded the defendant pending his Dec. 5 sentencing.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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