ROME, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Italian police have arrested 42 people, busting two criminal gangs who deliberately maimed people in order to stage fake accidents and scam insurance companies, causing the death of at least one of their victims, law enforcement announced Monday.
Those arrested include a lawyer who did the fake insurance paperwork, recruiters who sought out victims among the mentally disabled, drug addicts, alcoholics, and people in severe financial distress, planners who found accident locations, vehicles, and fake witnesses, plus muscle men who broke the victims' limbs and doctors and officials willing to sign off on false accident reports.
"Palermo and Trapani flying squads uncover insurance fraud. Dozens of arrests being carried out," state police tweeted. "The criminal association broke the limbs of willing victims with cast iron discs (of the kind used for weightlifting equipment in gyms)."
Charges include serious bodily harm, extortion, embezzlement, insurance fraud, and money laundering.
"A total of 250 suspects are under investigation, and 50 victims have cooperated with police," Palermo Flying Squad Chief Rodolfo Ruperti told ANSA Italian news agency.
Police also seized assets, businesses and real estate worth half a million euros, including a bar, a gambling den, a boat and a luxury car.
Monday's operation follows on a similar one in August 2018, when 11 people -- including an insurance expert and a nurse at a Palermo hospital who allegedly supplied the gangs with anesthetics -- were arrested on charges that they "struck the limbs of willing victims... causing them fractures and forcing them onto crutches or wheelchairs in order to defraud insurance companies," state police tweeted at the time.
Police said "the death of a Tunisian citizen whose body was found on an outlying road in January 2017 was due to multiple fractures caused by...members of a criminal organization in order to stage a fake accident."