'Cigarette Bandit' pleads guilty

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By The Staff

A second participant in a theft ring dubbed by law enforcement as the “Cigarette Bandits” appeared April 1 in court and pled guilty. Eugenia Isabel Duran, 24, pled guilty to theft, a class three felony, and was sentenced to five years probation. Duran was ordered to pay $47,589 in restitution.

Anita Jean Duran, 47, the third participant in the theft ring was also in court April 1 and pled guilty to theft, a class three felony. Her sentencing has been set for May 12. Anita and Eugenia Duran, mother and daughter, were two of three people indicted for stealing $80,000 worth of merchandise from convenient stores in the metro area.

Kenneth Daniel Cortez, 44, pled guilty to Violating the Colorado Organized Control Act (COCCA) and was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Dec. 10. Authorities believe Cortez was the ringleader of the trio.

Cortez, Eugenia Duran and Anita Duran, were indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury in January 2007, as part of an organized theft ring operating in the metro area. They were accused of having gone into convenience stores, where one or two of them distracted the clerk while the others would locate the place where cigarettes and higher-priced items were stored. They would then go into storage areas or back rooms, sometimes using keys taken from the unsuspecting clerk, and steal cigarettes and other merchandise like cell phones, according to authorities. After the co-defendants left the store with the stolen merchandise, those who acted as decoys would also leave.

The stores hit were two Phillips 66 stores, a Conoco store, 7-Elevens and a Western Convenience Store in Lakewood; four Diamond Shamrock stores in Westminster; as well as other convenience stores in Douglas, Arapahoe, Denver and Adams counties.