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Italian police issue warning over coronavirus scams and burglaries

Police in the Lombardy region have warned people to watch out for fraudsters knocking on doors claiming to be Italian Red Cross volunteers testing people for coronavirus.

Italian police issue warning over coronavirus scams and burglaries
File photo: AFP

Caribinieri police in Lombardy, the region worst affected by the Italian coronavirus outbreak, warned on Tuesday that people knocking on doors claiming they need to carry out coronavirus checks are “not health workers but fraudsters”.

There have been numerous reports in the region this week of people posing as volunteers from the Red Cross or claiming to be paramedics or other medical personnel in order to steal valuables from elderly or vulnerable people in their homes, police said.

Thefts were reported in Milan and surrounding areas as well as in the Bergamo area.

Lombardy's welfare councillor Giulio Gallera said fake Red Cross personnel had also been knocking on doors in the “red zone”; the small towns in northern Italy which have been badly hit by the virus and are currently sealed off.

MAP: Which parts of Italy are affected by coronavirus outbreak?

“There are no Red Cross volunteers or any others who have been dispatched for such screenings”, Gallera said at a press briefing on Monday, urging residents “not to let anyone in” unless they had called for medical assistance.

The scammers are taking advantage of public fears over the coronavirus outbreak, authorities said.

Anyone visited by people claiming they need to conduct tests for coronavirus is urged to contact their local Caribinieri office or call the emergency number 112.

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CRIME

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”

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Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”

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