(TMU) — Italy is in a state of shock after it was revealed that a “cash-for-kids” crime ring including the mayor, psychologists, and social workers was “brainwashing” children into saying that their parents abused them so they could be removed from their families and sold to foster parents.
Eighteen people have been arrested so far in the brazen scheme that unfolded near the central Italian city of Reggio Emilia.
Reggio Emilia’s authorities have accused the network of misusing hours of psychotherapy sessions and electro-shock techniques to seize the children from poor homes under false pretexts, convincing them that they had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their parents in order to “alter their memory ahead of trials,” according to local reports.
The network then allegedly gave the children to friends and acquaintances in exchange for cash, while gifts and letters sent to children from their families were stashed away in a warehouse that was recently discovered by police.
The investigation into the abuse has been codenamed “Angels and Demons” and began in 2018 following a series of criminal reports to police that initially proved false.
The probe has since revealed a scheme to “pass off as a model welfare system for abused minors what was in reality an illegal business to the children’s detriment,” La Repubblica newspaper reported, per AFP.
Those arrested include Andrea Carletti, the mayor of Bibbiano, which has about 10,000 residents, and a ring of doctors, politicians, social workers and psychologists.
Children undergoing brainwashing by those arrested were forced to face electroshock therapy through what they called a “little memory machine” that distorted their memories and made them susceptible to the false accusations, while therapists dressed up as “wicked” children’s story characters in role-playing scenarios and forged child-like drawings with connotations of sexual abuse. Children were also pressed to describe their homes as derelict.
At least two of the foster parents have faced accusations of sexually abusing the children they purchased from the Bibbiano network. The foster parents include sex shop owners, people with psychological disorders, and those whose biological children have committed suicide.
One young girl interviewed by La Repubblica recounted that she had no recollection of why she couldn’t see her father anymore.
“But don’t you remember you said you didn’t want to see him? I remember this,” a psychologist said to her.
“I didn’t say that,” the girl responded.
The psychologist is quoted as insisting:
“Yes, you said you didn’t want to see him because you were afraid that he would hurt you… That he might seek vengeance… or take you away. Do you remember the fear you felt? Do you remember now?”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has called the alleged crime “frightening and shocking” while Families and Disabilities Minister Lorenzo Fontana called it “shockingly serious,” promising to deeply probe the national adoption system.
Police have declined to say how many children were involved or what their ages are, but they have confirmed that hundreds of thousands of euros were involved in the repugnant scheme.
Some of the children have been heavily traumatized by the separation from their parents and the psychological torture they underwent, having expressed a loss of hope in the future as well as despondency, while also resorting to self-harm.
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