Thousands of coins are hurled into the Trevi Fountain by tourists each day, as they make a wish for a return visit to the Eternal City.
But between 1968 and 2002, Cercelletta, better known as D'Artagnan, was scooping them up with a long, sword-like magnet. He worked six days a week, under early morning darkness, and would sometimes rake in $1,000 a day, the New York Times reported in 2002.
The job would take about 15 minutes and police turned a blind eye to it for years until Italy's media reported the Trevi's treasure was being fleeced instead of being used for what it was intended: charity.
''I wasn't really collecting all that much,'' Cercelletta told police after his arrest, according to the New York Times report.
Cercelletta, who was found dead at his home in the capital, also reportedly said that he was sharing the money with other needy and troubled people and that someone else would be looting the Trevi if he were not. He also pointed out that he eluded arrest for more than three decades.
In 1999, Italy introduced a law to protect city monuments, which included a prohibition against jumping into fountains.
But the law and his arrest did nothing to deter Cercelletta from jumping into the fountain 11 years later: in May, police pulled him out after he climbed in and deliberately cut his stomach in protest against his unemployment.
In November, Italian actress Valeria Marini was fined €160 for stepping into the Trevi in a bid to mimic a scene from Federico Fellini's 1960s classic, La Dolce Vita.