Julio Aponte

Frostproof man convicted of robbing man in restaurant with flare gun


Julio Aponte

Julio Aponte

A Frostproof man was convicted Wednesday of robbery.


Wearing a mask over his face, Julio Aponte, 33, used a flare gun to rob two people in the La Botana restaurant food store in Lake Wales.

Jurors took 30 minutes to convict Aponte of robbery with a weapon, attempted robbery with a weapon, and providing false identification to a law enforcement officer. Circuit Judge Michael McDaniel is scheduled to sentence Aponte on Feb. 28.

Assistant State Attorney Jessica Fisher prosecuted the case.

During the trial, Fisher told jurors that Aponte walked into the store on Nov. 6, 2018, behind his friend, who continued toward the restaurant area. Aponte stayed at the front counter, then pointed an orange flare gun at a clerk and a customer paying for items he planned to buy.

As Aponte waved the gun and demanded money, the customer handed Aponte a few bills and Aponte and his friend left the store.

Fisher told jurors that surveillance video showed the robbery and that Aponte’s friend was an unwilling bystander. The only, question, she said, was the identity of the masked man.

But Aponte’s friend testified Aponte was the armed man. In addition, when Polk Sheriff’s detectives investigated they found clothing in Aponte’s room and tennis shoes still on his feet that matched the outfit the masked man was wearing in the store.

The robbery occurred a week after Aponte robbed a convenience store on State Road 60 in Lake Wales with a large knife. In that case tried in late 2019, Circuit Judge Larry Helms sentenced Aponte to two separate life sentences for the charges of robbery with a deadly weapon and burglary while armed.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Fisher and Polk County Sheriff’s detectives for their work on the case.


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