When Italian law enforcement officials showed up on Naval Base Sigonella on Saturday to seize assets from the Navy Exchange as part of a wrongful termination lawsuit, the store was closed.
So rather than leave empty-handed, they went to the nearby commissary and seized groceries instead.
"When the local bailiff ordered the seizure of NEX property in satisfaction of the judgment, the local police arrived to execute the seizure on Saturday and found the NEX closed, they proceeded to the commissary and seized or put a hold on all the goods there except for meat and produce," Kevin Robinson, a spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency, told Military.com on Monday.
Former Navy Exchange employee and Italian national Carmelo Cocuzza's case was upheld by Italy's Supreme Court in March 2014. That case ruled that Cucuzza, who had been fired in 2000 for falsifying timecards, is entitled to rehiring, wages from the time of his dismissal to reinstatement and social security contributions, according to Stars and Stripes and local media MeridioNews.
Rather than leave the base unsuccessfully on Cocuzza's behalf, officials took possession of items in the commissary.
Officials have yet to clarify exactly how the seizure occurred, and the Defense Department is now referring all questions to the U.S. Embassy in Italy.
But what is clear is this: On July 8, the day before the seizure, Navy officials posted to the base's Facebook page that the Exchange would be closed "until further notice."
The next day, they updated readers that, "due to ongoing legal matters, the Navy Exchange will be closed once again today (Saturday 9 July)." Just three hours later, they updated readers again, this time with the closure of the commissary.
"Due to unforeseen legal circumstances the Commissary will be closed until further notice. We are sorry for the inconvenience this may cause," it said. "I can assure you that this issue is being addressed at all levels from the Embassy down. Thank you for your patience."
Finally, five hours later, they posted that although the Exchange and commissary would be open July 10 during normal hours, "due to pending legal action in the Italian court system, only items not marked as off limits in the Commissary will be available for purchase."
Stateside commissary officials on Tuesday did not immediately have information on when the Sigonella commissary will again be fully operational.