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Italian police break up mobsters' insurance fraud

Friday - 7/26/2013, 3:49pm  ET

ROME (AP) -- Police in southern Italy on Friday broke up a multi-million euro insurance fraud racket run by a crime syndicate that depended on the collusion of doctors, lawyers and auto repair shop owners.

Rodolfo Ruperti, a police official based in Catanzaro, a stronghold of the Calabria-based 'ndrangheta syndicate, said the bosses of the Giampa' clan used the proceeds from the reporting of fake accidents -- millions of euros each year -- to pay the "salaries" of rank-and-file mobsters.

A total of 65 warrants were issued, but many of those sought were already in prison for other crimes.

In a separate crackdown in the Rome seaside suburb of Ostia, police aided by search dogs and helicopter surveillance fanned out to arrest 51 people suspected of involvement in a money laundering scam that used the town's bathing establishments and other local businesses, prosecutors and police told a news conference.

The investigation, aided by information supplied by turncoats from the Sicilian Mafia, probed a series of killings, arson fires and bombings of businesses to intimidate owners into letting mobsters' infiltrate or take over the enterprises.

In another development, Italy's war on organized crime has a new anti-Mafia czar, Franco Roberti, a veteran prosecutor who has battled the Camorra crime syndicate in the Campania region. He fills the vacancy created a few months earlier when Pietro Grasso, now Senate president, quit to enter politics.

Italy's anti-mafia initiatives have relied heavily on turncoats, but some of the top imprisoned bosses have resisted.

Among those is Bernardo Provenzano, the reputed "boss of bosses" who was captured in a farmhouse near Corleone, Sicily, in 2006, after decades on the run. Imprisoned for life for the murders of more than a dozen mobsters, Provenzano has been held in strict conditions prescribed by law for convicted organized crime bosses, including infrequent visits by family members.

On Friday, prosecutors, citing health reasons, gave their backing to less stringent prison conditions for Provenzano, Italian news reports said. Last year, he had brain surgery after injuring his head in a fall at a top-security prison, and his health has reportedly been deteriorating. The justice ministry must still sign off on any easing of prison conditions for Provenzano.


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