Man facing trial in armed robbery

March 20, 2013

The man accused of robbing a South Strabane Township gasoline station at gunpoint last month was ordered to stand trial Wednesday on charges including robbery, theft and possessing instruments of a crime.

Rocco John Iacovone, 26, who was staying at 65 S. Watson Ave., East Washington, at the time of his arrest, was ordered held for court by District Judge Valarie Costanzo following a preliminary hearing in Central Court.

Testifying primarily through an interpreter, store clerk Baldev Navdiya said the robber came into the BP station on Racetrack Road about 3 a.m. Feb. 11 and asked for a pack of cigarettes. After Navdiya scanned the cigarettes, the robber pulled out a gun and asked for money and two cartons of cigarettes, Marlboro Red and Marlboro Light Gold.

“I gave him the cigarettes and cash from the register,” Navdiya said, estimating he handed over about $120.

Navdiya testified that he was not able to identify Iacovone as the robber.

“I was so terrified, I couldn’t even look at him,” the clerk testified.

Township police Detective Ken Torboli said he sent out surveillance photographs later that morning to police in Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“I learned there had been an armed robbery at a Subway about four hours before ours,” Torboli said. “I exchanged information with police in Fairmont, W.Va. It was clear it was the same actor.”

Iacovone was caught two days after the South Strabane robbery when he led police on a high-speed chase after allegedly robbing a gas station in White Hall, W.Va. He came into Pennsylvania and was apprehended near the Ruff Creek exit of Interstate 79 in Greene County. He was driving a van that matched the one seen on surveillance tapes at the BP. A pellet gun believed to have been used during the robberies was found inside the van.

Michael Mills, who owned the van, said that he would allow Iacovone to use it. Mills said Iacovone was staying with him and several others working at a nearby gas well. He said they were trying to find Iacovone a job.

Torboli said police got a search warrant for the home on South Watson, finding cartons of Marlboro Red and Marlboro Gold cigarettes. The detective said Iacovone’s roommates knew he had an air pistol.

Public Defender Glenn Alterio asked Costanzo to dismiss the charges since Iacovone could not be identified as the robber.

Assistant District Attorney Justin Papciak admitted that there was a lot of circumstantial evidence.

“But there are too many other things connecting Iacovone,” Papciak said. “It is no longer a coincidence.”

Iacovone was returned to the Greene County jail, where he faces charges in connection with the pursuit. He also faces charges in West Virginia.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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