Every year, countless visitors arrive at Rome’s beautiful Trevi Fountain. After admiring Bernini’s masterpiece, it is customary to turn your back to the fountain and use your right hand to toss a coin over your left shoulder. As the coin sails through the air, make two wishes: to find love and to return to Rome again.
The famous coin toss is so popular that nearly 14,000 Euros are chucked into the fountain every week. The money is supposed to be collected on a regular basis, destined for Caritas, a Roman Catholic charity.
A group of Italian journalists set up a sting operation to track what actually happens to the coins. Late at night, when the area around the Trevi Fountain was deserted, they observed five men walk towards the water with buckets and brooms.
The men approached three police officers idling in the area, and then waded into the waters. The group of thieves then scooped up buckets full of change while the policemen ignored them.
Shocked at the display, a journalist who had been secretly filming the episode approached the criminals and confronted them. After being subjected to an angry tirade, he was shoved headfirst into the fountain.
The thieves walked calmly away, weighed down by the booty they had collected from the fountain.
After the footage became public, the officers who were present during the theft were chastised by the mayor of Rome and suspended.
"Those in uniform cannot be allowed to behave like this. We cannot permit this sort of thing to go on in the city," said Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome.
Police have not yet pressed charges against the five men who made off with the coins. In 2003, a judge ruled that the coins in the fountain had been discarded by their owners and therefore could not be stolen.