Gone in seconds: burglars snatch cigarettes worth $22,000+

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Cigarette bandits are terrorizing convenience stores across Tulare County, violently ransacking the shelves and clearing all of the merchandise. Deputies say in the last two months, the thieves have stolen more than $22,000 worth of cigarettes.

Surveillance video from one store in Traver shows cigarettes and boxes tumbling from the sky. Within minutes, entire shelves of merchandise are cleared out, and deputies say the men are still on the run.

"They all kind seem to have MO," said Ashley Ritchie, with the Tulare County Sheriff's Office. "The people kind of seem to be the same, the way they are breaking-in seems to be the same, what they are taking seems to be the same."

Since April at least four different businesses have been broken into in the South Valley. Some stores have been hit multiple times and their cabinets still stand empty.

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A group of burglars has made off with $22,000+ worth of cigarettes in a crime that took just seconds.

"Like I said, get a job and leave innocent people alone," said employee Jesse Gambon.

Many store employees were too upset or afraid to speak on camera, but those at the Red Barn near Exeter showed us the rocks thieves used to break into their door. They say it is hard not to feel vulnerable.

Deputies the thieves have already tried stealing from cash registers. They believe these stores were targeted for their remote locations.

"We want people, obviously convenience store clerks to be vigilant and to be aware of anybody that comes in that looks suspicious," said Ritchie.

Detectives believe they are looking for three to four men, all in their early to late 20s.

If you have any information, call the Tulare County Sheriff's Office.
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