Italian police have arrested 18 people, including a mayor, doctors and social workers, for allegedly brainwashing vulnerable children into thinking their parents had abused them so they could then be sold to foster parents.
The network then allegedly gave the children to foster families in exchange for cash, while keeping gifts and letters sent to the children by their real parents hidden in a warehouse that was discovered by police.
Codenamed “Angels and Demons”, the investigation began in 2018 and revealed that the network operated under the pretenses of helping children in difficult situations by placing them in foster families. However, the scheme was essentially a front for child trafficking. An article in the Corriere della Sera newspaper explains how any excuse was used to remove children from their families in order to justify their abduction and brainwashing.
“These accusations, if confirmed, are frightening and shocking,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at the Group of 20 meeting in Japan.
To brainwash the children and deceive authorities, the network is also accused of using small electroshocks that they called the “little memory machine” while with children.
Their other methods allegedly included forging childlike drawings to add fake sexual details, falsely describing their parents’ homes as derelict, and enacting plays in which social workers playing the children’s parents disguised as monsters trying to harm them.
The people to whom the boys and girls were handed over reportedly included sex shop owners, persons with psychological disorders and parents whose children had committed suicide. It was under this ‘foster care’ that at least two of the victims suffered actual sexual abuse, according to reports.
Police declined to say how many children were involved, or of what age.
Those arrested, as well as 27 others under investigation, have been charged with mistreatment of minors, violence, abuse of office, fraud, grave injuries, abuse of power, embezzlement and falsifying public records.
Hundreds of thousands of euros were involved, Italian media reported.
Italians on the internet said they were praying for the estimated 30 kids who were affected, and demanded an appropriate punishment for the wrongdoers, whom they branded as “animals.”