ROME (Reuters) - Italian finance police on Monday arrested four alleged mobsters for forcing shop owners in Naples to buy Christmas poinsettia plants at more than 100 times their wholesale price to raise money for jailed clan members.
For the past three Christmas seasons, the four mobsters forced business owners to buy the primarily bright-red leaved plant for as much as 100 euros ($140) each to raise funds for the families and legal fees of jailed clan members, the police said.
"It wasn't someone dressed like Santa Claus tapping on the doors of shop owners and businesses (in central Naples)... Instead there were four emissaries of the Mazzarella clan," police said.
The business owners were intimidated and their businesses were vandalized if they refused to buy the Christmassy offerings. The Naples-based Camorra mafia members are accused of extortion, burglary and being members of an organized crime group.
Reporting by Steve Scherer Editing by Jeremy Gaunt