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Robbery strands Czech tourist in Florida

Most tourists don't want to leave Florida's beaches when their vacation ends. In Tomas Machac's case, he wants to go home but can't.

The Czech tourist's bag was stolen Friday as he napped on a Treasure Island beach, stranding him without money, passport or return ticket.

The 21-year-old roofer has been left to the mercy of agencies unable to help. Treasure Island police said they could not find an agency that would take Machac in. Similarly, the Czech Republic Embassy in Washington, D.C., said it could help only if he had money for a return ticket.

Luckily, Mik Kavka has jumped in. The owner of Le Versaille Courts in Largo met Machac on Friday when the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary called him in as a translator.

Originally from Czechoslovakia, Kavka let Machac stay in one of the apartments, giving him food and clothing.

"I felt I couldn't leave another human being on the street," he said. "I'm frustrated that such a proud nation of ours cannot help a stranded victim of a crime. I refuse to believe it."

Machac came to the United States to see the Olympics. He flew into Newark, N.J., on June 12 and went to Atlanta, where he stayed for two weeks. Then, lured by stories of beautiful beaches, he came to Florida. But two days after arriving at Treasure Island, his vacation ended with the theft.

Police tried to find Machac a way home but kept running into dead ends, said Lt. Keith Reynolds.

"I'm not sure who is inevitably responsible," he said. "Mik has been fantastic. Without his help, I don't know where the gentleman would go."

Police thought they had solved the problem Monday evening. After several conversations with the Czech Embassy, they were told money would be wired to them for a ticket home. But when police called Tuesday morning to confirm, they were told none would be sent.

"The family needs to pay in Prague for a ticket and then we can send him back," said Radka Simankova, visa officer at the embassy. "We cannot give him any money. There must have been confusion yesterday about the ticket."

Machac said his family cannot afford a ticket. Running out of options, he will go to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Tampa today for help.

"Myself, I can do only so much for the fellow," Kavka said. "I cannot dish out the money for a ticket. I try to be good, but I can only do so much. If there was another way, believe me, I would do it."

So with his return home still in limbo, Machac has become convinced of one thing.

"I would maybe consider coming back to another part of the United States, but not Florida," he said, as Kavka translated.