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This story has been updated to clarify that the court order did not pertain to the commissary but to the NEX.

The Navy is working to expand the selection of items for sale at the Sigonella commissary while a legal dispute that prohibits the sale of other items presses forward between U.S. and Italian authorities.

A small shipment arrived on Monday and a “broader selection of items will be available for purchase, as additional shipments arrive,” the Navy said in a Facebook posting.

For now, commissary customers are authorized to purchase only a small selection of goods — staples such as fruit, vegetables and meat — because of an Italian court’s decision to award everything else in the store to an Italian man who says he was unfairly fired by the Navy Exchange at Naval Air Station Sigonella.

Italian courts awarded Carmelo Cocuzza restitution for lost wages and retirement in connection with a ruling that he was wrongly fired.

He recently got a court order to “foreclose” on the debt and seize NEX assets, Italian media reported.

While the judgement didn’t involve the commissary, which Cocuzza was not affiliated with, Italian authorities moved to freeze the sale of items during a base visit Saturday.

“The judgment from the Italian courts is against the NEX,” which apparently has not been paid. So the local bailiff ordered the seizure of the NEX property in satisfaction of the judgment,” said Rick Brink, a spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency. “When the local police arrived to execute it on Saturday and found the NEX closed they proceeded to the commissary and put a hold on all goods except for meat and produce.”

Commissary contents were estimated to be worth about $1 million if Cocuzza were to auction them.

The former window dresser’s argument that he was wrongly fired for an accusation of falsifying a time card was upheld by Italy’s Supreme Court in March 2014. The ruling awarded him all wages from the time of dismissal to reinstatement, plus social security contributions.

At an impasse with U.S. officials over payment, Cocuzza received a court order to seize NEX assets.

A court hearing, originally slated for Tuesday, has been pushed to Monday, according to Jeff Galvin, press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, who declined to discuss the case as authorities seek a mutually agreeable resolution.

The original Italian court judgment called for Cocuzza to receive $600,000 in damages and to be rehired.

vandiver.john@stripes.com

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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