No Vax "customers" paid €300 to €450 for fake vaccinations in order to obtain Italy's covid Green Pass.
Italian police have arrested a nurse accused of pretending to administer covid vaccines to anti-vaxxers, in exchange for money, in the city of Ancona in the central Marche region.
The nurse, identified by Italian media as 50-year-old Emanuele Luchetta, was caught by hidden cameras apparently discarding the vaccines into a bin, as his paying customers played along with the charade of being vaccinated without actually getting jabbed.
The illegal system, which netted €18,000 in one month, faciliated 'No Vax' people obtaining the covid Green Pass, a digital certificate required for a wide array of activities in Italy, from public transport and restaurants to stadiums and cinemas.
The nurse is currently in jail, facing charges of corruption, falsifying certificates and wasting public goods, while four of his accomplices - including a lawyer and a restaurateur - are under house arrest.
The police investigation is centred on the Paolinelli covid vaccination hub and reportedly involves around 60 people but does not involve doctors or other officials.
The scam came to light after a doctor at the hub became suspicious of the groups of people, sometimes 10 at a time, being brought in as "friends of Emanuele", reports La Repubblica newspaper.The nurse, a vaccine administration officer at the hub, claimed the visitors were patients of the mental health centre where he usually worked.
"They have panic attacks, they must be treated in a certain way", he tried to justify himself before changing tack and offering the doctor a cut in his lucrative illegal racket, according to La Repubblica.
"These are all highly placed No Vax people", the nurse confided in the doctor who pretended to become his partner in crime but in reality reported him immediately to the police.
"Relatives of doctors, lawyers, freelancers, gym customers, parents ready to pay to give their teenage children the Green Pass without making them get the vaccine" - writes La Repubblica, which reports that, in addition to Ancona, "they also came from Rome, Bologna, Perugia, Macerata."
At least 50 cases of fake vaccination have been uncovered thanks to the probe which began last December and whose wiretapping, surveillance and video footage allowed police to identify 60 people.
The No Vax customers initially paid €300 per fake vaccination however due to brisk demand the price was upped to €450.
The news comes a week after a 73-year-old doctor in Ascoli Piceno - also in Le Marche - ended up in prison facing charges of embezzlement and forgery amid a probe into allegations that he certified 150 false vaccination certificates and threw away 120 covid vaccine doses, reports La Stampa newspaper.
In December police in the Sicilian city of Palermo arrested three people as part of an investigation into an alleged scam that involved a nurse pretending to administer covid vaccines to anti-vaxxers in exchange for cash.
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Italy nurse arrested for faking covid vaccinations for cash
Via Saturno Schiavoni, 60131 Ancona AN, Italy