A Central Florida man could be sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted last week for a series of crimes committed during a crime spree in Ocala in 2022.
Ocala police officers first responded to the Paddock Mall on August 7, 2022 in response to reports of a robbery.
The first officer on scene spoke to employees of a JCPenney store who said a man, later identified as 45-year-old Rocco Gelonese, stole several items of infant clothing and shoes from the store valued at $454. After the theft, the employees said Gelonese ran out of the store towards State Road 200.
Later, officers responded to Logan’s Roadhouse on SW 19th Ave. for reports of another robbery. Officers spoke to the victims who said they were in a van and had just entered the Paddock Mall parking lot in front of JCPenney when a man ran up to their van, entered through the rear passenger-side sliding door, and yelled at them to “drive or I will shoot you!”
The victims noted the man appeared to have run from the mall with his arms full of merchandise that was later found do have been stolen from the JCPenney store.
According to court documents, one of the victims repeatedly told Gelonese to get out of the van, but he refused, again threatening to shoot them if they didn’t start driving.
At that point, the victim in the front passenger seat turned around and pushed Gelonese halfway back out of the van. The driver then stomped on the gas and sped off, causing Gelonese to fall from the van and roll onto the pavement.
Police took another attempted robbery report from a woman who said she was sitting in the parking lot near the Logan’s when she saw Gelonese approach her as she sat in her car. The victim said Gelonese opened her door and began yelling at her aggressively, “Give me 20 dollars. My wife is pregnant!”
The victim said she backed away in her seat as Gelonese began to reach for her phone. He then began to leave when the victim screamed that she was going to call police.
Some of the victims later identified Gelonese from a photographic lineup and he was arrested several days later.
Gelonese, who had been released from prison just three days before the crime spree, was arrested again and charged with burglary of a conveyance with assault, burglary of an occupied conveyance, and petit theft.
Last week, Assistant State Attorney tucker O’Neill with the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office secured a guilty verdict on all the charges, which they described as “alarming.”
Because of his prior criminal record and status as a prison release reoffender, Gelonese faces significant minimum mandatory sentences, including potentially life in prison.
Sentencing for Gelonese is scheduled for Jan. 31.
“Gelonese’s case demonstrates the importance of a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the community in maintaining public safety,” Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney William “Bill” Gladson said in a statement announcing the verdict. “Our office remains committed to pursuing justice and ensuring the safety of our citizens.”