Authorities said Friday they have found a man who ended up with more than $1 million worth of gems stolen in a brazen and deadly jewelry store heist, and he hasn't been ruled out as the gunman.
Edmond Alma was arrested after police found 37 pieces of the stolen finery in his upper Manhattan apartment on Wednesday, according to a criminal complaint. It said he had asked a police informant to fence nine other items for him the day before, striking a deal to let the informant could keep any proceeds over $15,000.
Alma, 46, was arraigned Friday only on a stolen-property charge and didn't enter a plea. While police and prosecutors said he could be a suspect in the Jan. 27 robbery and slaying at R.S. Durant, a defense lawyer denied Alma was even there.
"My client was not the shooter," said the attorney, Terrence Grifferty. "He was not in that jewelry store."
A judge agreed, however, to let prosecutors put Alma in a lineup as a potential suspect in the robbery and shooting.
Authorities said the robber confronted two employees at midday at R.S. Durant, a small boutique on posh Madison Avenue, not far from the Whitney Museum of American Art.
When the workers initially balked at his demands for jewelry, the gunman took the magazine out of his semiautomatic pistol and said, "You think I'm kidding? This is real," police said.
Then he shot 71-year-old clerk Henry Menahem in the chest, the criminal complaint said. Menahem later died at a hospital.
The other worker then filled bags with sapphires, diamonds, emeralds and other gems, and the gunman fled, authorities said. Prosecutors said the stolen jewelry was worth $4 million in all.
A canvass of pawn shops and other places where the jewelry might be sold led to the unemployed Alma, police said.
They said 14 rings, seven necklaces and some bracelets, earrings and charm-bracelet charms were found in his apartment, along with a bullet-resistant vest and ammunition for a 9 mm gun — the same size as shell casings found at the store.
The shop's telephone system wasn't accepting messages Friday evening.
Alma is being held without bail at least until a court date Tuesday. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Anyone with information on the incident to contact CrimeStoppers at 877-TIPS.