When the movie is made, it must star Peter Sellers as the Capo of the Guardia di Finanza‘s Bunko Squad on load from the Paris Sûreté, at one point impersonating an Argentinian in white.
Undercover as priests, Italian cops bust $2 million fake cardinals scam
ROME – A group of con men who dressed up as cardinals to swindle victims out of millions of dollars have been caught by Italian police, in an undercover sting operation conducted by officers who were disguised as priests.
Members of the Carabinieri, the Italian military police who enjoy broad authority in Italy, set the trap at the Basilica of Holy Mary of Angels and Martyrs in central Rome after receiving complaints from two hotels that were scammed out of 20,000 euros ($23,631) and 75,000 euros ($88,616) in 2017.
Since 1988, the group of five con men, aged between 58-75, pretended to be priests, monsignors, and even cardinals, presenting themselves as “intermediaries of the Vatican” who could offer business owners in financial trouble, mostly in northern Italy, advantageous loans either from the Vatican bank or a non-existent Luxembourg financial company called “Eurozone,” without requiring personal financial guarantees.
It wasn’t difficult for the grifters to get the fake attire, since Rome boasts dozens of shops selling clerical garments, including some that specialize in cardinals’ outfits. No special status or identification is required to purchase the clothing, in part because it’s often customary for friends and family of a cardinal to buy the required garments for him.
To be credible, the fraudsters, who met at a café in the Centocelle neighborhood in southeastern Rome every morning to discuss potential scams, would set up various meetings and exchange emails and contacts with their marks.
In order to sell the impression that they were priests or cardinals, calling themselves “Don Luca” or “Don Giuseppe,” many of the meetings took place near the Vatican. In one case an appointment took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University, which is run by the Jesuits and attended by a swath of priests, seminarians, and religious studying in Rome.
There’s more but that’s enough.
This story has it all.
Carabinieri … in clerics?