'Blind' Italian scammer caught driving, window shopping

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 21 2021 02:02 PM

Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash
Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash

ROME, Italy - An Italian man who received government welfare for years due to blindness was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of fraud after being seen driving, window shopping and riding a scooter, news reports said.

The man in Palermo, Sicily, received at least 170,000 euros ($191,000) in benefits since 2008 after attesting that he was "totally blind" as a result of a congenital problem, local media reported. 

Italy's financial police were alerted after the man renewed his driver's license in 2018 despite his earlier declaration, media said. 

During stake-outs, authorities witnessed the man driving -- while dialing on his phone at the same time -- looking at shop windows while walking through a busy mall and teaching his daughter to ride a bike. 

The 40-year-old was also seen riding a scooter without insurance, Palermo Today reported, adding that the man was nicknamed "Berlusconi," after Italy's former prime minister with a history of legal problems.

The man was already known to authorities, having received a jail sentence of nearly 15 years in the first instance last year for being part of a group that staged fake traffic accidents to receive insurance payouts. 

The case is under appeal.

Despite being the owner of a garage, the man also received Italy's so-called "basic income," or monthly welfare payment given to the country's poorest citizens.

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© Agence France-Presse

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