'Blind' Italian scammer arrested after driving
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 dialling 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.