Men deny $5,400 theft from Vermont Country Store
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | November 06,2012
BRATTLEBORO — Three Massachusetts men, one of them an admitted heroin addict, allegedly stole more than $5,400 worth of clothing from the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham on Sunday afternoon. The men were arrested about 20 minutes later in Chester.
Stephen W. O’Brien, 44, of Quincy, Mass., Robert T. Viens, 40, of Braintree, Mass., and David Attardo, 48, also of Quincy, Mass., all pleaded innocent Monday in Brattleboro criminal court to two felony counts — one of retail theft, and the other possession of stolen property.
Attardo allegedly told Vermont State Police officers that he was a heroin addict and that he planned on selling the clothing so he could buy more heroin.
Judge David Suntag ordered all three men held for lack of $10,000 bail each, citing their lack of ties to Vermont. O’Brien and Viens have extensive criminal records, and Viens spent 10 years in prison for assault, according to court testimony, getting out in 2005.
O’Brien had a conviction for credit card fraud, among other charges.
None of the men listed any source of income in their applications for a public defender.
The affidavit stated that a store employee saw one of the men stuff a Vermont Country Store shopping bag with clothing and ran out of the store without paying. The three men took hats, gloves, sweaters, jackets and shirts, according to court documents.
According to an affidavit submitted by the Vermont State Police, employees at the Vermont Country Store were able to give police a detailed description of Attardo’s truck, as well as a description of at least two of the men. Police recovered a large amount of clothing in Attardo’s truck, many still on hangers and all containing the identifying shopping tags from the store. The pile of clothing reached to within two inches of the roof of the truck’s cab, police said, who said they found several shopping bags from the country store in the truck.
None of the men could explain to police how they had come to have the clothing in their possession.
The store employees said one of the men, while he was in the truck, “smirked and waved goodbye” as they drove north toward Chester.
According to the affidavit, a state police sergeant saw stolen property from the Vermont Country Store in plain view in Attardo’s truck. Police said the stolen clothing almost reached to the ceiling in the truck cab.
“Neither Viens, Attardo, or O’Brien could explain how they obtained the items from the Vermont Country Store nor did either of them claim that they owned the property or produce a receipt for the items,” wrote the state police.
Police said the clothing was inventoried, photographed and returned to the Vermont Country Store.
The store manager said that many of the clothing items still had the hangers in them and “their store practice is to take out the hangers prior to the items being sold.”
The two women described Attardo’s pickup as tan or gold with a wood framed rack in the back, and said that the car plate was white and red.
Shortly after getting the 911 call, state police saw a truck matching that description backed up against the road side of the parking lot at the Stone House Antique Center.
One of the men, Viens, was sitting on a bench at the Stone House Antiques Center, and told police he had no idea what his two friends were doing, and he said he was just waiting for them to come out of the antiques center.
Police later saw all three men come out of the antiques center and approach the gold truck, but when they saw the Vermont State Police cruiser, they walked away from the truck and back into the store.
Police said that Viens told them “he did not want to be a ‘rat.’ He stated that when things start going bad his dad always told him to run away so he was staying away from the other two guys.”
There was no indication in court documents why the three men chose to target the Rockingham store, but they told police that had driven up to Vermont that day.