135 people have been arrested in Rome for running a counterfeit ring which has sold up to 3,000 fake identity cards for up to 20,000 each. The investigators estimate the gang has netted some 2.5 million since starting operations in 2001. The accused ringleader and seven other key members of the swindle are employees of the Rome city councils registry office, which records births, deaths, and marriages and issues identity cards. Almost all the fake documents were supplied to illegal immigrants from eastern Europe and the Balkans, many of whom have criminal records. Most received their bogus papers after Italians recognised them as relatives for a fee of 1,000-2,000. Another method involved using the identities of Italian citizens residing abroad whose particulars were accessible at the registry office. The alarm was first raised by the European Union in Strasbourg because of anomalies over the recognition of children.