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Family Man Turned Middle-Aged Robber Gets 3 to 6 Years

February 24, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Thomas Gannon, 215.348.6461, tcgannon@buckscounty.org

Joseph DiVergigelis
    Joseph DiVergigelis

A middle-aged Falls Township man who turned to robbery to fund his opioid addiction was sentenced today to serve three to six years in state prison, followed by 20 years of consecutive probation.

Joseph DiVergigelis, 50, described by his attorney as “the last person one would think would be involved in a gunpoint robbery,” pleaded guilty on Oct. 25 to four counts of robbery, all first-degree felonies.

Falls police had arrested DiVergigelis on Jan. 16, 2016, charging him with robbing four businesses during the previous two months in Middletown, Bristol and Falls Townships.

Defense attorney Jack McMahon blamed the crimes on DiVergigelis’ addiction to opioid painkillers and his mental distress over the loss of his longtime employment. Despite an extensive arrest and placement record as a juvenile, DiVergigelis had no convictions as an adult before the robberies.

“In reality, I think the arrest saved his life,” McMahon told Bucks County Senior Judge Albert J. Cepparulo. “He was on a death spiral that needed some immediate intervention.”

At the height of his addiction, DiVergigelis was taking four 80-milligram OxyContin pills per day, at a daily cost of $150, supplemented by sporadic use of Percocet, muscle relaxers and Adderal, according to a presentence report.

Deputy District Attorney Thomas Gannon argued that DiVergigelis was far from destitute, and that he had committed the robberies to conceal his drug addiction from his family by not plundering their assets. He robbed, Gannon said, “not to feed an addiction, but so that he could keep silent his addiction.”

On Nov. 15, 2015, DiVergigelis robbed a Sports Authority store on East Lincoln Highway in Middletown. A cashier told police that a man wearing sunglasses and a black, curly wig demanded all of her money and pulled a gun. He escaped with $250 after ordering the cashier to the rear of the store.

Two weeks later, DiVergigelis robbed a Pet Valu store on Oxford Valley Road in Bristol Township. Again wearing sunglasses and a black wig, he took about $800 after pulling a gun and ordering the cashier to the rear of the store.

On Dec. 29, 2015, DiVergigelis reappeared at 4 a.m. in a 7-Eleven store on Veterans Highway in Middletown. After implying to the cashier that he had a weapon, he escaped with $190. Surveillance video showed a red Dodge Ram pickup truck with distinctive features driving through the parking lot.

On Jan. 7, 2016, DiVergigelis robbed a Sunoco station on New Falls Road in Falls Township. Wearing a black mask over his face, he pointed a handgun at an employee and demanded all of the money in the cash register, about $250. The employee watched DiVergigelis walk to the parking lot of an adjacent apartment complex and get into a full-size red pickup truck.

One week after the fourth robbery, Falls Police Cpl. Joseph Coffman noticed a red Dodge Ram truck matching the description of the vehicle linked to the latter two robberies parked outside of DiVergigelis’ house on Tanglewood Lane.  A subsequent search of the truck turned up a gun, a black wig, a mask and other evidence concealed under the hood of the truck.

The items hidden under the hood indicated “that you were intending to do this time and time again,” Cepparulo told the defendant, at one point referring to DiVergigelis as “a pill-popping junkie.”

Half of the courtroom was packed with family members and friends of DiVergigelis, many of whom had contributed to a flood of letters sent to Cepparulo attesting to the defendant’s good character.

Bristol Township Council member Howard Allen testified that he had known DiVergigelis for 25 years, and that he was known as a good worker and a good family man. “I don’t lightly put my reputation behind any person,” Allen said.

The defendant’s brother-in-law, Robert Staines, testified that he had just lost his 26-year-old daughter this week to a fatal heroin overdose, and that DiVergigelis “got caught up in this epidemic (that) is destroying our community.”

“Once the pills got involved in his life, his family saw a change in him,” Staines said. “It took Joe down a dark path.”

DiVergigelis’ wife of 30 years, Jennifer, said her husband had been a role model for their two sons, ages 20 and 22; had helped raise her sister’s three children; and helped take care of her elderly parents.

Despite his years of clean living, she said, his robberies “broke the very morals and values that he taught (his children) to live by,” leaving the family “in a horrible situation.”

DiVergigelis apologized to the robbery victims and to his family, saying he was “ashamed and embarrassed by what I did. I hurt them along with my family.” He asked Cepparulo to sentence him to a prison that has recovery programs for him.

Before imposing the sentence, Cepparulo had harsh words for the defendant, suggesting that he had not fully taken responsibility for his crimes.

“One thing that struck me was everybody calling this a mistake,” the judge said. “This wasn’t a mistake. This was an intentional act.”

Cepparulo told DiVergigelis that if a robber had stuck a gun in the face of one of his own sons, “you would be in here screaming for a maximum sentence.”

The judge said that if DiVergigelis has no misconducts during his first year in prison, he would recommend that he be allowed to serve his remaining time in a therapeutic community.

Approved for release by Gregg Shore, First Assistant District Attorney.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                   

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