French arrest "father" of 55 children in suspected benefits scam
PARIS (Reuters Life!) - A Paris man who registered 55 children by 55 different mothers faces up to 10 years in jail and fines for suspected paternity fraud and for helping to obtain residency under false pretences, police said Friday.
The 54 year-old of African origin, who authorities did not identify, was arrested in his two-room flat in Paris during a police raid which yielded documents showing more than 50 people were registered as living at that address.
Police suspect the man was involved in a social benefits scam which could have been costing the state over 1 million euros ($1.27 million) annually in claims by the mothers.
"At the moment 42 women have been identified and each claim that the man is the biological father of their child," Paris police said in a statement.
Authorities said the man claimed he met the women at bars, night spots and occasionally during visits to their home countries, including Senegal, Cameroon and Mali.
For a fee of 150 to 200 euros, he registered the children and their mothers with French authorities, enabling them to obtain residency permits and claim social benefits.
Some of the mothers told authorities they had received up to about 7,500 euros on various monthly allowances.
"Investigations are on-going and an investigating magistrate will decide whether DNA tests have to be administered to determine the children's paternity," a police spokesman said.
(Reporting by Bate Felix, editing by Paul Casciato)
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