The Associated Press
EUGENE — A former University of Oregon journalism student has been sentenced to a dozen years in prison for a string of robberies he pulled off to help pay gambling debts.
Eugene police Detective Jeff Donaca said Thursday that Samuel Sourikoff had "two lives" between May 2007 and December 2008, when the 22-year-old robbed a Eugene restaurant four times and targeted jewelry stores in Eugene, Nevada and California.
Sourikoff was arrested following a Dec. 5 holdup at Mazzi's restaurant in Eugene, when patrons helped police chase him down after he stole cash and a bottle of wine. Donaca said Sourikoff, whose sports writing remains online, once had an academic scholarship, but went into debt after gambling online and at Nevada casinos.
"It's really pretty sad," he said.
In exchange for his confessions to the Oregon heists, Sourikoff will not be prosecuted in Nevada or California, officials told The Register-Guard newspaper.
Sourikoff wasn't a suspect in the jewelry store robberies until a tipster told the FBI that the student was the man in surveillance photos. Eugene detectives and FBI agents then reconstructed Sourikoff's travels and determined he had been in or near all the cities where the crimes occurred.
The spree began May 26, 2007, when a masked Sourikoff held up Mazzi's for the first of four times. FBI Senior Agent Nancy Savage said Sourikoff lived near the restaurant.
About a week later, he entered a Eugene jewelry store and ordered employees to the floor while holding what officials now believe was either a BB or air gun.
Sourikoff then headed to the Reno-Lake Tahoe area, where he robbed three jewelry stores. Sourikoff returned to Oregon and robbed Mazzi's again. The Eugene jewelry store was held up a second time on Oct. 6 of that year.
"These people thought that they were going to be executed," Donaca said. "They were ordered to the ground and they thought they would be shot."
Information from: The Register-Guard, http:www.registerguard.com