• Time limit for charges expires in $1.9M heist
    By Brent Curtis Herald Staff | January 31,2009
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    Rutland City police investigators Ray Lamoria, David Schauwecker and Chris Kiefer-Cioffi (left to right) investigate the largest robbery in Vermont history at the Howe Center in 2002. The crime remains unsolved and the statute of limitations has run out for a robbery charge. The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the robber.
    Time has run out for investigators to bring robbery charges against the lone gunman who committed the biggest robbery in Vermont history.

    But legal experts and law enforcement officials said this week that they don't expect the unknown bandit to come dancing out of the woodwork with the $1.9 million he made off with in the Rutland armored car heist just because the statute of limitations has lapsed for a robbery charge to be brought.

    Today marks the seven-year anniversary of the Berkshire Armored Car Co. robbery in Rutland, a heist carried out on a cold and snowy morning in 2002 by — apparently — one person who surprised and tied up a pair of guards at the company's building in the Howe Center.

    Few clues of the robbery remain in the city's physical footprint. The armored car company is gone, replaced by an automotive shop that occupies the building at 11D in the sprawling former Howe Scale Co. complex. Also gone is the 10,000-pound stainless-steel safe that was robbed. That piece of Rutland and Vermont history now sits outside a mill in Pawlet where its owner — who originally intended to use it as a storage container for high explosives — has kept it since he realized it didn't meet the necessary specifications.

    But the case still has life as demonstrated by its continued posting on the "Seeking Information" portion of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Web site.

    City police Detective Michael Notte said investigators also continue looking into new leads — such as a tip that Notte and the FBI tracked down in November. But so far, the inquiries have all led to dead ends.

    "Any new leads we get we look at but they haven't gone anywhere so far," Notte said.

    With the expiration today of the state's statute of limitations for armed robberies — the federal statute of limitations expired two years ago — prosecutors and investigators need no longer concern themselves with bringing robbery charges in the case.

    Statutes of limitations exist to ensure fair trials for the accused in cases, according to Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna.

    As evidence in a case ages, an accused individual's ability to mount a defense is undermined, said Hanna, a former prosecutor in Baltimore.

    But should the bandit turn up, Hanna and U.S. Attorney for Vermont Thomas Anderson said he could be charged with other offenses.

    Anderson declined to say what charges could be brought against the robber. But Hanna said the most flexible and therefore most likely charge the gunman could face is the same charge that federal agents used to take down notorious gangster Al Capone — tax evasion for nonpayment of income taxes.

    "It's a catch-all crime that's a useful tool to prosecutors," Hanna said.

    And since the time clock for the crime resets itself every April 15, prosecutors never have to worry about the statute of limitations expiring.

    How long it takes until the robber faces charges of any kind remains to be seen.

    Clues in the case have been scant aside from the events that took place in the early-morning hours of Jan. 31, 2002.

    At around 5:45 a.m. that day a masked gunman surprised two guards at the company's office. After tying and handcuffing them the man, who spoke with a New York accent, took $1.9 million from the vault and fled.

    The suspect, described as a white man, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 160 to 175 pounds, hasn't been seen since. He was believed to have fled Berkshire's in a dark van, possibly with a light stripe on the side.

    Investigators combed through the Howe Center for clues and surveillance video that might have captured the man or his van and scores of interviews led to hundreds of leads. Current and former Berkshire employees were interrogated along with many Howe Center employees.

    Anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the robber stands to gain a $20,000 reward put up by the FBI.

    Contact Brent Curtis at brent.curtis@rutlandherald.com.
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