Italian team leader robbed

PABLO FERNANDEZ -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

It was a Wild West experience complete with lawlessness for the head of the Italian skate team yesterday, after a thief stole $3,020 of the delegation's cash.

Walter Cecconi, leader of the Italian team in Calgary for the 2006 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, had just exchanged a credit note at the Alberta currency exchange and went into the Stephen Avenue Walk Lammle's location when a thief stole the cash, said sales associate Laura Rider.

"When people walk in we want to give them a real western, positive experience," she said.

"They come here because they want something different to take home ... and as a Calgarian I want to make sure they have a positive experience."

But as Cecconi and another member of the Italian delegation went back to their coats, which they put down on a bench in the store while they looked for souvenirs to take home, a third well-dressed man rushed out of the store, Rider said.

Staff and police believe that man was likely the thief.

"This is his third time to Canada ... but he's never experienced this kind of thing before, so he was really upset," Rider said of Cecconi.

The money was slated to pay for athletes' meals and medical expenses in Calgary.

Hoping to dampen the blow, Lammle's gave the Italian skating team a $500 gift certificate and will be accepting donations for the team, said Rider.

The mayor's office and Tourism Calgary have also jumped on board and are working to help the team, she said.

But the experience hasn't tainted Cecconi's perception of Canada.

"I love the Canadian people ... a lot of volunteers are very kind to our team," he said. "I know that these things can happen.

"Maybe in Italy I expect it more but in Canada, I don't expect this."

The theft was a crime of opportunity, said Insp. Luch Berti.

"The jacket was left in a common area where someone just figured there was something of value in it and went through the pockets and made away with it and, in this case, he got a quantity of cash," he said.


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