Police: Former restaurant owner stole vehicle from PD parking lot
MILFORD — Police say an Orange man whose truck was taken away when cops accused him of buying it fraudulently stole the vehicle back a year later — from the police department’s parking lot.
The allegation is one of several pending in cases against Anthony Villano, a former Post Road restaurateur now confined to his home after being arrested six times since last May.
The former owner of Villano’s and Gaetano’s restaurants and a partner in other eateries, the 59-year-old Villano is embroiled in dozens of lawsuits with former business associates and lawyers who used to represent him.
He also faces charges in seven separate criminal cases.
He has pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence in all of the cases. On Tuesday, he asked Judge Peter Brown to let him travel to Italy briefly to visit an older brother in ill health.
The judge denied the request.
Brown told Villano he imposed “stringent” conditions on his release because of “the multiplicity of charges that you’ve picked up in this jurisdiction and other jurisdictions.”
“Obviously, you’re presumed innocent of every one of these charges,” Brown said. “You have a right to go to trial on these matters ultimately if that’s what you wish to do. In my view, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the court to impose these stringent conditions and then let you go to Italy.”
In the stolen vehicle case, Milford cops had seized a Toyota Tundra after charging Villano with first-degree larceny connected to a complaint from a former business partner that he bought the vehicle with the company’s credit line without authorization.
Police said Villano showed up in the Tundra to surrender on the warrant, so they tagged it as evidence and parked it behind the police station.
About a year later, a tow truck driver hired by the finance company that owned the vehicle showed up at the police department to take the truck back.
But the police department’s evidence officer couldn’t locate the vehicle — because Villano had allegedly paid to have it towed from behind the police station two weeks earlier.
Police said Villano admitted having the vehicle towed and declined to give it back, so they charged him with first-degree larceny and tampering with physical evidence.
He faces charges in several other jurisdictions as well.
In January, Orange cops stopped Villano after learning he was wanted by West Hartford police on harassment and threatening charges and Stratford police for forgery and criminal impersonation.
During the traffic stop, officers suspected Villano had been drinking, and also found a loaded handgun in the vehicle. They charged Villano with drunk driving and carrying a firearm while under the influence.
In April 2019, Orange police arrested Villano again — this time on a charge of first-degree larceny connected to a complaint lodged last November that he tried to fraudulently sell a Post Road property to a company he controlled.
As Villano’s arrests piled up this year, Brown in July ordered Villano confined to his home except for medical and legal appointments — then raised his bond three weeks later after finding that Villano had violated those terms, landing him behind bars.
A week later, Villano posted bonds totaling $400,000 and was released from jail, subject to house arrest with GPS monitoring.
In court Tuesday, Villano and his lawyer asked the judge to relax those conditions to let Villano travel out of state to visit homes in Florida and Vermont, as well as a brother of Villano’s who the lawyer, Jason Messina, said is “nearing death” in Italy.
“He’d very much like to go see him and spend some time there,” Messina said.
Villano promised he would come back to the country to defend himself.
“I’m trying to exonerate myself and my family,” Villano said. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been a pillar of the community for the past 50 years, both in Milford and Orange.”
Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Howard Stein objected to Villano’s request, saying nothing had changed since the judge last addressed the issue.
“He was accumulating arrest after arrest, all in violation of the conditions of each of the releases that he was currently on,” Stein said.
“The state is prepared to try this case as soon as the defense is ready,” he said.
The judge spoke to both lawyers during a brief recess before denying Villano’s request.
He continued the case to Oct. 11, when, he said, “it’s my hope that we can start having some fruitful discussions.”