ROME — The post on the Rome mayor’s Facebook page was triumphant: The police had tracked down a man “once considered uncatchable,” she said in announcing that after a yearlong investigation, the authorities had discovered the real identity of the elusive tagger known only as Geco.
For years, his moniker has marked Roman subway stations and bridges, abandoned buildings and schools, parks and galleries.
“He has soiled hundreds of walls and buildings in Rome and other European cities, which had to be cleaned using public funds,” the mayor, Virginia Raggi, wrote on social media.
City authorities did not disclose Geco’s real name. But Italian news outlets identified him, without saying how they had obtained the name. And they gave few personal details about the man, who is thought to be in his late 20s and originally from Rome. His lawyer would not confirm his real name.
Geco is not as well known as Banksy, the world’s most famous artist-provocateur, whose real identity remains a secret. But he has made a name for himself in Rome, where his tags seemed to be everywhere.
Geco fueled his fame by climbing to the roof of a municipal food market to leave an unusually verbose message: “Geco ti mette le ali,” or "Geco gives you wings.”
While most Romans would concur that the Italian capital could use a good cleanup, many grumbled that the city — and the mayor — had much bigger problems to contend with, from potholes to the coronavirus pandemic.
At least one “Free Geco” tag appeared on a city wall. But actually, he has not been arrested.
Geco’s lawyer, Domenico Melillo, himself a graffiti writer turned street artist known as Frode, said the investigation was in a preliminary phase and his client had not been formally charged.
If Geco is charged with defacing public or private property and found to be a repeat offender, he could face up to two years in prison and fines.
Through his lawyer, Geco declined to be interviewed.
The Geco sting was carried out by an 18-month-old environmental police task force that works directly for the mayor’s office. It acted on complaints by Raggi as well as the city’s infrastructure commissioner and an association for one of Rome’s biggest parks.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.