BRUSSELS (AP) — Police in four European countries have busted a crime gang accused of using young women to trick elderly Italian men out of their savings, the European Union's law enforcement agency said Friday.
Europol said the gang was mostly composed of members of one Romanian family and used young women hired as domestic workers to defraud men between the ages of 70 and 90.
The agency said one of the victims lost almost 20,000 euros ($21,176). Another suffered two heart attacks after a young woman secretly slipped him Valium so accomplices could rob his house.
The gang targeted elderly men who were isolated from their families, mostly in the southern Italian region of Calabria, Europol alleged.
The women usually began a physical relationship with the men, then asked for money, often on the pretext of needing it for health problems or to help a sick family member, the agency said. Some of the men were blackmailed if they refused.
Europol said the gang managed to rake in more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million), and laundered the money through investments in real estate, cars and gold.
Authorities in Italy, Germany, Romania and the Netherlands, backed by Europol, swooped in on the gang Thursday, searching 23 houses, arresting 13 suspects and seizing electronic equipment and documents.