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Bridgeport — Serial burglar Mark T. Missino's life of crime, as told by his lawyer when Missino was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to 17 years in prison, began with the theft of a freshly baked cake and several glasses of cold milk from a stranger's home during the summer between sixth and seventh grade.
Missino and his brother, left to fend for themselves by their alcoholic parents, "were unable to control their insatiable hunger" when they bicycled past a house and smelled "the gratifying scent of pastries emanating through its screen door," according to attorney William H. Paetzold. Seeing the homeowner drive away, they walked into the home, devoured the cake that was cooling on the kitchen table and drank several glasses of cold milk from the refrigerator.
Convicted of his first burglaries in his late teens, Missino, 46, of Waterford, had amassed a lengthy criminal record by the fall of 2010, when East Lyme Police interrupted him and his partner in crime, Bernard McAllister, as they attempted to pry open a safe in a storage unit brimming with valuables stolen in dozens of burglaries along the Interstate 95 corridor from New York to Rhode Island. Among those items were the 19 firearms that led to federal indictments of the men, who already faced a litany of burglary charges in state court.
Missino, who was recently transferred from state prison to federal custody, had pleaded guilty in federal court to possession of firearms by a convicted criminal. He received an enhanced sentence due to his status as an "armed career criminal."
"This is a very serious set of crimes," Judge Stefan R. Underhill said at the sentencing. In imposing a 204-month, or 17-year sentence, the judge went above the mandatory 15 years that Missino was facing and beyond the 188 months requested by the defense.
Missino, who also has pleaded guilty to state charges, will likely serve his 17-year federal sentence concurrently with the state sentence of 25 years that will be imposed April 30 in Superior Court in Stamford. Underhill said he recommended a concurrent sentence but it would be up to the state court. Missino will serve the 17-year federal sentence in a Bureau of Prisons facility before he is transferred back to state prison, where he has already amassed four years credit.
His attorney estimates Missino, whose dark hair has grayed since he was arrested four years ago, would be released from prison when he is in his mid-60s.
"Mark's going to be spending a majority of his life locked up," Paetzold said. "As a person who is free, I feel sorry for Mark, because I think he had potential."
The authorities learned after their arrests that Missino and McAllister's crime spree had gone beyond burglaries of unoccupied residences.
"There's conduct here that goes beyond breaking into people's houses, and that's troubling," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert M. Spector.
McAllister, cooperating with federal authorities, admitted they had carried out an armed home invasion of a jewelry store manager's Griswold home in November 2009 and the subsequent burglary of the Grader's jewelry store in Norwich. The men broke into the older man's home, woke him and his wife from sleep and demanded the floor plan and safe combinations for the store. They left the couple duct-taped to chairs in their locked bathroom after telling them the door was rigged with dynamite and they would return and murder them if the burglary went awry.
In September 2010, the two men committed an armed robbery at a Westbrook movie theater, according to a sentencing memorandum written by Spector. Wearing ski masks, they held a gun to the head of the theater manager and forced him to open a safe and turn over $4,500 in cash. They left him handcuffed to a chair in his office.
After fleeing from the storage unit and going on the run, Missino and McAllister robbed two employees of a Domino's Pizza restaurant in Dayville at gunpoint, stealing approximately $1,200, and took the store manager's vehicle, which they later abandoned on a college campus, according to the memorandum.
The men also arranged for an associate to sell a stolen semi-automatic assault rifle for $1,400 in cash and $50 worth of marijuana, according to the government. Authorities seized the stolen rifle from the purchaser in October 2013.
Missino held a few legitimate jobs over the years, according to his lawyer. He was a manager at a shoreline McDonalds until cash went missing from the register and he became the prime suspect due to his criminal history. He worked at a machine shop in Old Saybrook, ran his own housecleaning business and did some plumbing and home improvement.
Ultimately, though, he was unable to resist the adrenaline rush that came with committing crimes, particularly after he hooked up with Bernard McAllister, an old prison buddy who looked him up in 2007.
Missino, who wore a neon-orange prison jumpsuit to his sentencing, stood up and told the judge that if McAllister had not come back into his life, he probably would never have been involved in the crimes.
"I really didn't want to get involved," he said, "but once I did, I just couldn't stop."
He said that he had never hurt anybody and never would.
"I just want you to be aware that although the crimes were bad and on the violent side, I can guarantee no violence would have taken place."
McAllister, 43, of Lisbon, received a nine-year sentence for his federal crimes and 16 years in prison for his state offenses.