Lake Stevens man gets 14 years for string of robberies

EVERETT — A drug addiction that fueled a two-week string of robberies will cost a Lake Stevens man 14 years of freedom.

Last summer Brandon Smith, 25, robbed more than 20 tanning salons, adult video stores, gas stations and other businesses around the Puget Sound. Smith told investigators he needed the money to feed a $300-a-day drug habit. He was addicted to OxyContin, a powerful prescription painkiller that can sell for as much as $80 a pill on the street.

Smith on Tuesday called his crime wave the “darkest hour” of his entire life. He acknowledged that he put people’s lives in danger and hurt his family, something he wishes he could take back.

Smith’s mother called police after recognizing her son from a surveillance video broadcast on television. She told investigators where he was living with his girlfriend.

Superior Court Judge Gerald Knight on Tuesday commended Smith’s mother for calling police. The judge said that she may have saved her son’s life and protected the community from further harm.

Knight then sentenced Smith to the high-end of the sentencing range.

Smith’s crimes began a month after he was fired from his longtime job at Nintendo for theft, court papers said.

He entered businesses that were usually tended by one employee. From there, he feigned interest in the businesses’ services or asked for change. Smith then pointed a gun at the employee and demanded money.

Employees didn’t know that the gun he aimed at them was fake.

One victim told Knight she was unable to work with the public anymore and quit her job. Another said she lost trust in people.

Smith told police that he never used a real handgun because he was concerned that if he was caught he’d get more prison time for having used a weapon.

Smith committed multiple robberies in one day. In all, he admitted to holding up about 25 businesses between Marysville and Seattle. He pleaded guilty in May to 10 counts of robbery. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed not to file 15 additional robbery charges.

The heists were the result of Smith’s serious addiction to drugs, his attorney Ray McFarland said.

“It was the last desperate act of a young man deeply in need of help,” McFarland said.

Knight told Smith not all is lost. Smith is fortunate to have many relatives and friends who care about him and support him.

“It can be turned around with a great deal of effort on your part,” Knight said. “It is in your hands.”

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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