Defendants in Stamford fatal jewelry robbery plead not guilty
STAMFORD — The three men accused in the robbery that took the life of Stamford jewelry store owner Mark Vuono entered not guilty pleas to federal charges during an arraignment that was carried Thursday on a live video feed from the federal courthouse in Bridgeport.
Assistant United State’s Attorney Rahul Kale, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jocelyn Courtney Kaoutzanis, said Robert Rallo, 56, of Brooklyn, and Thomas Liberatore, 62, of White Plains, walked into Vuono’s Marco Jewelers on the afternoon of Saturday, March 28.
While Liberatore was robbing the front of the store Rallo, who was armed with a gun, went to the safe in the rear of the store before getting into a struggle with Vuono, Kale said.
“After about a five minute struggle Mr. Rallo shot Mr. Vuono in the head and as a result Mr. Vuono is deceased,” he said. Police say that Vuono was shot with his own gun that Rallo took out of the store safe during their fight.
Federal authorities earlier this month announced that a grand jury in New Haven charged Rallo, aided and abetted by Liberatore, with using a firearm to kill Vuono, 69. The charges could end in life prison sentences or the death penalty for the pair, authorities have said.
The indictment also charged Rallo, Liberatore, who is a native of Stamford, and Paul Prosano, of Brooklyn, with interference with commerce by robbery, an offense that carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, and interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum term of 10 years.
In Thursday’s proceeding, carried via Zoom video conferencing, each of the three men appeared, separately, on video inside a jail cell in the lockup at the Bridgeport federal courthouse. They were dressed in orange jumpsuits and surgical masks.
Judge William Garfinkel asked each of the men if they would waive their appearances in court and have their arraignment take place on a video link and they each agreed.
“Well, we all appreciate everyone’s flexibility. We are trying to keep everyone as safe as possible for health reasons,” Garfinkel said after Prosano, who was the last to be arraigned waived his right to a live appearance in court.
Viewers of the arraignment were prohibited from recording the proceeding or taking pictures of it.
Each of the men is being held in federal custody in New York.
None of the men had much to say, except Prosano, who after being given the statute numbers of the crimes he was charged with said he did not understand what he was being asked to plead to.
Garfinkle then instructed the court clerk to read a description.
Prosano then pleaded not guilty.
Liberatore’s Westport attorney Bruce Koffsky declined comment on the case, as did New Haven attorney Michael Sheehan, who is representing Rallo and Margaret Levy, who is representing Prosano.
While the court clerk said a jury selection could begin as early as mid-August, Garfinkel said that date will probably change.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that Vuono was killed by a gunshot to the head.
Police and federal authorities have said video evidence reveals that Prosano drove Rallo and Liberatore in a black Jaguar to Marco Jewelers on the day in question. Rallo and Liberatore then entered the store, police said.
The black Jaguar was soon found in Staten Island and was watched by authorities. Two days after the robbery, a black BMW driven by Prosano pulled up beside the Jaguar. Rallo got out of a rear door and got into the Jaguar and drove away, authorities said. Police gave chase, and after he crashed the Jaguar, apprehended Rallo on foot, authorities said.
Authorities said they apprehended Prosano after he, too, crashed and tried to flee.
A search of the BMW located 63 rings, eight bracelets, two tie pins, an earring and a cuff link, according to authorities. A search of Prosano's Brooklyn residence turned up 23 pairs of earrings and three rings, they said. It is alleged that those items were robbed from Vuono, law enforcement authorities said.