AMERICAN HELD IN SALE OF GUATEMALAN CHILDREN
Boston Globe/Associated Press
An American woman has been charged with selling Guatemalan children to Italian families for large sums of money in violation of antislave-trade laws, police said today.
Officers arrested Anelinda Fassola, 67, of Paterson, N.J., in a Rome apartment yesterday on a warrant from the state prosecutor, a police spokesman said. Police found copies of contracts with the families, who were seeking children to adopt.
The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said at least five cases of such sales have been tracked down in Rome - three girls and two boys aged 8 to 15. Investigations were under way in several northern Italian cities which the woman is said to have visited recently.
Police said several of the children involved were homeless because of an earthquake in Guatemala. Fassola, a native of Italy, was said to have lived for a number of years in the Central American country after World War II before moving to the United States.
She was charged with violating laws barring slave trade and regulating the
entrance of foreign children into Italy and adoption agreements between Italy and Guatemala.
The charges carry penalities ranging from five to 20 years in prison. The woman is being held in Rebibbia prison.
The five children, all brothers and sisters, arrived in Italy three years ago, entering as tourists without any adoption records, according to Juvenile Court Judge Anna Luisa Del Conte, who is handling the case. She said she was investigating the relations of the children with the various families before deciding what to do with the youngsters.
"But the most important thing is to stop this trade which I believe is very lucrative," Judge Del Conte was quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA as saying.
Police said the woman is accused of selling children "for large of sums of money" to the families, but they had no precise figures.
The ANSA news agency said investigators were also trying to determine if any children were taken away against the wishes of their families in Guatemala.
Apparently some of the Italian families involved tried unsuccessfully to legally adopt in Italy, often a difficult process because of the complicated bureaucracy, and so turned to an underground channel.