Niagara Gazette

December 3, 2012

Falls break-in suspect sentenced

Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A Falls man, who told police he broke into dozens of cars this summer because he was "bored," will now spend at least the next three and a half years behind bars.

Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas sentenced Gregory Andre Stephens, 48, to three and a half to seven years in state prison for his guilty pleas to multiple counts of criminal mischief, petit larceny and auto-stripping as well as single counts of burglary and bail-jumping.

Stephens was arrested in September after waging a one-man summertime crime wave in the city's South End. He claimed he had nothing better to do.

"He said he was 'bored'," Falls Police Warrants Officer Troy Earp said at the time of Stephen's arrest "He said he sat around all day doing nothing and it was either that, or go get some money and smoke some crack."

Investigators believed Stephens was responsible for as many as five dozen car break-ins in the prime tourist season months of June and July. Almost of all of Stephens’ victims were tourists.

"He was hitting the hotels in the South End," Earp said. "He was smart. He knew it's tough to get tourists to come back to town to prosecute these cases."

At his busiest, police said Stephens was breaking into between seven and 10 cars a night. Some of his crimes were caught on surveillance tape and at the height of Stephens’ crime spree, Roving Anti-Crime Unit and patrol officers set up surveillance operations on many of the hotel parking lots surrounding the New York State Park.

"The RAC guys were checking on a (suspect) and they saw (Stephens) walking out of his house, which was nearby (many of the crime scenes)," Earp said. "They knew he had warrants for burglary and bail jumping so they picked him up."

Once Stephens was in custody, Earp began to question him about the car break-ins. The warrants officer also showed Stephens some videotape of the break-ins, captured by security cameras.

"You could just see his face (watching the surveillance video)," Earp said. "It was like, I'm caught. He knew it was him on the tape."

Stephens gave investigators a confession to 36 car break-ins in the parking lots of the Sheraton, Giacomo, Hampton Inn and Super 8 hotels. While detectives believe he is also responsible for dozens of other break-ins, before he could be charged with them, Stephens pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors.

This is the second time Stephens has gone on a car break-in binge.

In Spring 2010, Stephens was charged in a rash of car break-ins in the South End that marred the start of the summer tourist season over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. 

At that time, Stephens admitted to stealing at least 10 GPS systems after breaking into cars parked in the lots surrounding South End hotels.