(BBC) — Italian police have arrested 34 people allegedly involved in a “bone-breaking” medical insurance scam in Palermo, Sicily.
The perpetrators allegedly broke people’s limbs and staged road accidents in exchange for part of their insurance payout.
The scam was first uncovered when one individual died after being beaten, police say.
Eleven people were arrested over similar activity last August.
Police said the organised criminal enterprise had focused on drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, and others “on the margins of society” in financial need.
More than 50 people were allegedly taken to “rooms of horror” in apartments or warehouses.
The victims were anaesthetised with drugs and had their limbs held on blocks of stone or cement, which were hit with bags of weights or large rocks.
Fake car accidents were later staged in areas of the city not covered by CCTV cameras, and gang members would take the victims to hospital, posing as relatives.
In another case, the group staged a fake accident on a ferry from Palermo to Genoa, with the victim alleging he had fallen down the ship’s stairs, Italian media say.
The victims were allegedly paid hundreds of euros under the scheme, despite their insurance claims being worth thousands.
Among those arrested are doctors and physiotherapists who allegedly filed false medical reports, and a lawyer who filed the insurance claims.
Local media report that the scheme brought in more than €2m (£1.7m; $2.26) a year.