ROME — Stealing an expensive Rolex off the corpse of a foe is just the type of thing one might envision Tony Soprano ordering one of his petty thugs to carry out. Instead, James Gandolfini, the actor who played Soprano in the popular Mafia series The Sopranos, was the apparent victim of a similar postmortem robbery.
On June 19, 2013, a few minutes after Gandolfini’s 13-year-old son alerted the reception desk at Rome’s Boscolo Exedera Hotel that his father had collapsed on the bathroom floor of their top-floor suite, a paramedic apparently swiped the timepiece from the dying actor.
The paramedic, Claudio Bevilacqua, who was also the driver of one of two ambulances that responded to the scene, was called to trial in Rome this week on charges of aggravated robbery of Gandolfini’s $3,000 Rolex Submariner, which he allegedly stole while taking the pulse of the dying superstar. According to police reports, efforts to resuscitate Gandolfini were well underway when the theft allegedly occurred.
Gandolfini, 51, suffered a massive heart attack while in the master bathroom of the suite he shared with his son as they waited for the arrival of wife Deborah Lin, who was set to join them on an Italian holiday before the actor was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily.
Gandolfini was still alive when he was taken to the Policlinico Umberto I hospital in Rome, but died shortly after arrival. Bevilacqua is not being charged with medical malpractice and is not believed to have impeded efforts to save the dying star.
Members of Gandolfini’s family noted that the watch was missing and reported it to authorities and to their insurance company. An Italian police investigation into the alleged theft included surveillance-camera footage from the hotel corridor and testimony from two hotel security personnel, who told investigators that Gandolfini was not wearing the watch when he was removed from the luxury hotel. One of the security guards who arrived first in Gandolfini’s room noted that the actor was wearing his expensive timepiece before paramedics arrived.
One of the security guards told police that he overheard the paramedics discussing Gandolfini’s watch, according to La Repubblica newspaper. “He no longer has his watch on his wrist,” one paramedic said to Bevilacqua, according to the security guard. Bevilacqua reportedly responded, “Now let’s try to save his life, then someone can worry about the theft.”
Bevilacqua did not appear in court this week and his lawyers did not enter any plea of guilt or innocence. The opening hearing was adjourned and the trial will begin in November. Bevilacqua faces a hefty fine and as much as five years in prison if convicted.