ROME: Italian police have uncovered a scheme by which the families of some 200 illegal immigrant minors were duped into paying a gang for their freedom, police said Monday.
Six suspects – an Egyptian, three Tunisians and two Italians – were arrested in the scam, which had run since 2002 in Sicily, police said in a statement.
They allegedly lured the young people from processing centers and made their parents or other relatives already in Italy believe that they were in the hands of a dangerous Moroccan criminal gang.
They typically asked for between $400 and $650 to return the minors to their families.
Egyptian Mohamed Abdelgalil, 29, the alleged leader of the gang, had contact with people smugglers in Libya and Egypt, the statement said, adding that a seventh gang member remained at large.