WILKES-BARRE — Call it a case of pay to prey.
Brian K. Smith preyed on women alone outside West Side stores, forcefully wresting away their purses as part of a crime spree that he told police was carried out to fund his heroin addiction. He also broke into homes and cars, and threatened a store clerk by saying he had a gun.
And now he’s going to pay for it.
Smith, 25, who is listed as a resident of Edwardsville and, later, Newport Township in court documents, pleaded guilty to multiple charges before Luzerne County Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. Those pleas covered 10 different cases from August through early this year, including one purse-snatching in which the victim’s hand was injured as Smith ripped away her bag.
His crimes also included thefts from homes and cars and a wallet theft at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
According to available court documents, the cases against Smith included:
• On Aug. 5, Smith stole a flat screen television from a Washington Street home in Edwardsville. Police said he unsuccessfully tried to return the TV to the Wilkes-Barre Township Walmart, then took it to the Pittston Township Walmart and was successful in his mission.
• On Aug. 13, Smith stole video games from the same Washington Street home in Edwardsville.
• On Aug. 30, he stole a man’s wallet from Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs while the victim was bending over to pick up a lighter.
• On Sept. 6, Smith stole a man’s briefcase from an unlocked car at a Pierce Street business. Police said Smith later used a credit card from the briefcase to make more than $500 in purchases from the Wyoming Valley Mall, deposited a check from the case into his own account and unsuccessfully tried to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
• On Sept. 22, Smith opened a woman’s car door while a woman was in the car in the West Side Mall parking lot, stole her purse while she was in the car and fled. Smith was captured two days later following a traffic stop.
• On Sept. 23, he snatched a woman’s purse outside a Dollar Tree store in Edwardsville, causing an injury to the woman’s hand.
• On Sept. 24, he overpowered a woman outside the Gerrity’s supermarket on Union Street in Pringle and stole her purse.
• On Jan. 24, Newport Township police responded to a report of a robbery at the M.J. Food Mart on West Main Street in Glen Lyon. Employees told police that a man told a worker that he had a gun, and demanded money from the cash register. The man escaped with $140, according to court documents.
Police said surveillance showed a man with his face covered, entering the store, pushing the clerk and taking cash from the register before fleeing in a silver Buick Century. That car was later traced to Smith’s mother, police said.
Smith admitted to the robbery under questioning by police on Jan. 30. In a signed statement, Smith wrote that he did so “due to a heroin addiction,” police wrote.
• On Jan. 28, Newport Township police were called to investigate an attempted vehicle break-in outside the Italian Club in Glen Lyon. The callers said that they observed a man tampering with a Jeep, and when confronted he ran away. They chased him to a home on Orchard Street and called the police.
Officers spoke to family members who confirmed Smith was inside. He initially denied any involvement, police said. After a brief conversation, Smith admitted damaging the Jeep’s soft cover, through which he removed a Carhartt jacket, police said.
The charges to which Smith pleaded guilty included theft, theft from a motor vehicle, burglary and robbery.
Smith is required to pay more than $3,100 in restitution to his various victims, and is to have no contact with any of them.
He remains incarcerated pending sentencing on Aug. 11.