Case closed: FBI ends probe of $1.9M heist
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | January 31,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff File Photo
Rutland City police detectives talk with an FBI agent while investigating Vermont’s biggest robbery 11 years ago today.
The FBI has closed the case of the biggest heist in Vermont history — but not because the culprits have been caught.
It was 11 years ago today that a single man with a gun overpowered two guards at Berkshire Armored Car Co. in Rutland and made off with $1.9 million.
The case has never been solved despite the efforts of city and state law enforcement officials and the involvement of the FBI which for years posted information about the robbery under the “seeking information” section of its website.
That posting, which included a description of the suspect has being 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing about 170 pounds and having a “nasal New York accent” — along with the offer of a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction — has been removed.
Asked Wednesday why federal officials are no longer seeking information about the heist, the answer was simple: The case is closed.
A spokeswoman at the Albany, N.Y., office of the FBI said every criminal charge that could be brought against the gunman has expired due to statutes of limitations for prosecution.
The statute of limitations for Vermont criminal charges expired in 2009. The federal charges that remained on the table are unclear.
The FBI spokeswoman said she didn’t know which federal charges expired most recently and Paul Holstein, the media coordinator with the FBI in Albany, could not be reached Wednesday. Calls to an FBI media representative in Washington, D.C., were not immediately returned Wednesday.
While the case has been closed by the FBI, the U.S. attorney in Vermont said he believed prosecutors may have a means of bringing money-laundering charges if law enforcement is able to build a case in the future.
“Theoretically, depending on the facts, the money would be derived from criminal proceeds forever,” said U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin.
“If we get leads on the case we would be interested in pursuing it, but the underlying robbery charge is off the table,” Coffin said.
Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna said federal tax evasion — the charge that famously brought down gangster Al Capone — might also remain an option in the case.
“There’s a strong possibility that if the bank robbers are ever discovered, the government could bring tax-evasion charges against them in large part because the income was the product of fraud,” she said.
A federal IRS spokesperson in Boston, Mass., could not be reached for comment.
The case proved difficult for many officials to talk about Wednesday due to both the legal complexities and its advanced age.
More than a decade has passed since the gunman, clad in a dark jacket and ski mask, confronted a guard arriving for work at the Howe Center building once occupied by the armored car company.
The suspect, armed with a revolver, forced his way inside and took a pistol from another guard already in the building before he handcuffed and tied both men, police said.
The robber took bags of money — estimated to weigh hundreds of pounds — from the vault and made his getaway in a dark van, police said.
Investigators combed through the sprawling industrial center for clues and surveillance video and scores of interviews, all of which led to hundreds of leads in the case. No arrests were ever made.
In the years that followed, Berkshire moved out of the Howe Center and was replaced by a Subaru repair shop.
The 10,000-pound stainless-steel vault has moved too — last seen outside a slate mill in Pawlet.
In November 2010, Berkshire founder Jerry Reder died at the age of 83.
Hours after the robbery in 2002, Reder told a reporter “I hope when they catch whoever did this, justice is served.”