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Italian police bust morticians in bribery, kickback scheme

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By Reuters
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:42 p.m.
 

ROME — Italian police arrested five morticians on Wednesday on charges of making tens of thousands of dollars a month in bribes from funeral homes and profiting from grieving families of the dead.

The morticians would tip off a favored funeral home when a corpse arrived and take kickbacks from the cost of the burial ceremony, said Francesco Pastore, regional financial police chief in the central town of Pesaro.

They are thought to have made $13,800 a month each from the practice, Pastore said.

Corruption is a serious problem in Italy's public services, siphoning $82.7 billion annually from national finances, according to its audit court.

Pastore said former employees of the hospital and town council of Pesaro operated on bodies to remove pacemakers.

Investigators are probing whether the heart-regulating devices were sold on the black market.

Other accusations the morticians face include pocketing payments from families for preparing and dressing the dead rather than passing them on to the hospital, selling clothes, shoes and rosary beads for the dead at inflated cost, and giving formaldehyde injections without the proper training.

They were put under house arrest and 29 others, including doctors and funeral home owners, were charged with crimes.

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