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Gambling addict gets 8 years in prison for robbing 19 stores in Virginia and North Carolina, including in Greensboro and Reidsville
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Gambling addict gets 8 years in prison for robbing 19 stores in Virginia and North Carolina, including in Greensboro and Reidsville

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ROANOKE, Va. — Larry Wayne Inge, whose gambling addiction led him to rob 19 Virginia and North Carolina stores — including stores in Greensboro, Reidsville and Burlington — in the course of 51 days, was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison.

Inge testified in Roanoke’s federal court that his crime spree began Dec. 1, 2019, after he had depleted his life savings, maxed out credit cards and spent borrowed money so he could continue to place bets on televised football games.

That evening, the 40-year-old from Danville walked into the Valero convenience store on Philpott Road in South Boston, wearing a skull cap and bandana and carrying a blue pillowcase. Keeping one hand in his jacket pocket as if he had a gun, he demanded all the money that was in the cash register.

After he had wagered that cash away, he robbed the Food Lion on Philpott Road in Henry County a few weeks later, then the Moore’s Country Store in Lynchburg on Dec. 29.

Although Inge was never armed and no one was injured, “he put everyone in danger,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Swartz said in asking for a 10-year sentence.

Each time he walked into a store, Inge testified, “I realized that what I did, even before I did it, was unacceptable.”

But by then, he said, the urge to place bets using an online gaming site was uncontrollable. After the money from one robbery was gone, “the very next day, I would be in the same situation.”

In early 2020, Inge began to travel to North Carolina. He robbed about a dozen other businesses — gas stations, convenience stores, truck stops, dollar stores and grocery stores — in Burlington, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Reidsville and Yanceyville. Some nights, he hit targets closer to home.

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When he got back in front of a television and logged on to the internet, “I was full-fledged,” Inge told U.S. Judge District Michael Urbanski. “I was betting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ... Whether I was winning or losing, it didn’t matter.”

After holding up a Food Lion in Reidsville on Jan. 30, 2020, Inge was arrested on a charge of shoplifting from a nearby Walmart.

Almost immediately, he began to cooperate in a way that Swartz called “truly extraordinary,” identifying himself in grainy surveillance footage and even confessing to two robberies in which he was not a suspect.

“I don’t know how many of these robberies the government could have independently proven without his cooperation,” assistant federal public defender Randy Cargill said.

Cargill presented evidence from a psychiatrist who found that Inge suffered from a gambling addiction that affected him in the same way that drugs or alcohol might.

Inge testified that he sought help from Gamblers Anonymous, but lacked the will to follow up.

Cargill cited his client’s remorsefulness — and the fact that he never had a gun or the intent to hurt anyone — in seeking a lighter sentence than was suggested by the government.

Urbanski noted that Inge had already been given a major break when federal prosecutors in Virginia and North Carolina agreed that he be sentenced at a single hearing Wednesday.

But he called the 10-year term called for by Swartz “a little too high,” opting to sentence Inge — who has been in jail since his last robbery — to eight years in prison. Inge was also ordered to undergo mental health treatment.

“I don’t believe for a minute that he intended to hurt anyone,” Urbanski said. “I just don’t think he has that in him.”

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