'SPIDER-MAN' BURGLAR SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS
TAMPA - A rooftop burglar, whom police dubbed "Spider- Man" for his nimble thievery, received a 15-year prison sentence Thursday, significantly less than the 90-year maximum.
Last month, Bobby Ray Romeo, 34, of Tampa pleaded guilty to 13 charges including multiple counts of burglary, dealing in stolen property and grand theft.
Prosecutors agreed to prosecute only 13 charges if Romeo provided details on his other crimes. Ultimately, he admitted to 97 burglaries of businesses since 2003, most in south Tampa.
At Thursday's sentencing hearing, Romeo's mother and fiancee pleaded with Judge William Fuente for leniency.
The burglaries, they said, were fueled by a serious cocaine problem.
"Bobby is the best person I've ever met," fiancee Julia Elia said. "If I thought Bobby was a bad person, I wouldn't have stood behind him."
Elia described Romeo as a hard worker whose specialties included hardwood flooring and landscaping. Someday, she said, Romeo wanted to own a landscaping company.
Romeo's mother, Shirley Gerosky, said she loves her son and that he never has been violent.
"If you take this addiction away from my son," Gerosky said, "he's a wonderful person."
Addiction, she said, doesn't discriminate. Anyone's son could be affected by an addition to drugs, alcohol or any number of vices.
Romeo told the judge he was released from a New Jersey prison in 2001 after serving two years of a five-year sentence on a cocaine charge.
He said he and his fiancee moved to Florida, and he was drug-free.
"Everything was fantastic, then I started using again," Romeo said.
He asked that his sentence include drug treatment.
Assistant State Attorney Barbara Coleman told the judge that Romeo, like most addicts, became concerned about getting help for his addiction only after he had to face the consequences of his actions.
After Romeo's prison sentence, he will serve seven years on drug probation.
If he violates that, he can be sentenced to as much as 30 years in prison, the judge said.
Romeo's mother told the judge that she has health problems and might not be around when Romeo is released. She asked if she could hug her son before he was taken away.
Fuente said that decision was up to the bailiffs, who controlled Romeo's custody.
After the hearing, the bailiffs allowed her a few minutes with her son.
With Romeo sitting on a bench, chained at his hands and feet, Gerosky wrapped her arms around him, cried and kissed the side of his face. She whispered into his ear as she held him.