One of the ocre-colored buildings on Rome’s swanky Viale Parioli, with its white window trim and pretty flowers dripping over the ledges, hides a troubling tale. Inside a small, tastefully decorated two-bedroom apartment on the top floor, underage high school girls allegedly turned tricks to help pay for cellphone top ups, designer clothes and, in one case, math tutoring. The clientele included bankers, butchers, a United Nations staff member, a journalist and the husband of Benito Mussolini’s granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini, a prominent politician in Silvio Berlusconi’s still-powerful political party and a strong advocate for women’s rights in Italy. The pimps included an army official and one of the teenager’s mothers, who apparently pushed her daughter to sell her body to help pay household bills.
According to investigative documents seen by The Daily Beast, two of the girls involved in the underage prostitution ring have described a tale of money, drugs and sordid sex. There are potentially at least a dozen more girls involved in the underage prostitution ring, but the current investigation, which led to the public outing of 20 men this week including Mussolini’s husband Mauro Floriani, centers on a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old who told investigating prosecutor Cristina Macchiusi that they got into the game by searching “easy money” on Google. According to the 16-year-old, who comes from a notable Roman family, the search turned up an ad that led her to Nunzio Pizzacalla, an officer with the Italian Alpine military service and Mirko Ieni, who was placed under house arrest last October when cops first discovered the so-called “baby prostitution” ring. After that, she couldn’t stop because the money was too good. The 14-year-old was pushed into prostitution by her mother, who says the economic crisis and the abandonment by her husband left her desperate. “I wanted a lot of money and I didn’t want to miss out on having on anything,” the older girl told prosecutors according to the investigative documents, which listed smartphones, mobile phone minute cards, designer clothing and makeup among the items the girls used the money for.
The younger girl apparently gave her mother cash to help pay for household bills. In a disturbing cellphone conversation that was wiretapped by police during the investigation, the younger girl pleads with her mother that she can’t “work” because she is unwell and has to catch up on her homework. The mother, who was arrested late last year and has a restraining order not to see her daughter, asked her daughter why she wasn’t working: “Look here, what are you doing? You aren’t moving today?” The girl responded, “No, ma, because I don’t feel well.” The mother responded, “What are we going to do then? I’m short [of money] and we need to recuperate the funds.” The daughter then told her mother, “Ok, tomorrow I’ll see what I can do.. after school.” The mother then insisted, “But can we make up our losses for this week? What’s wrong, you don’t want it?” The girl then insisted that she did want to work to make the money, but added. “I also want to go to school, but I never have time or energy to do my homework.” The mother offered several suggestions, including how she could study two or three hours before or after work, then told her daughter that she would have to make a choice. “You can either work or study,” she said, according to the transcripts of the tapes. “Maybe you can alternate between days.”
Other court document outline how the men, including Mussolini’s husband, wrote sordid text messages to the girls. The cellphone records show a careless trail of negotiations between the men and the girls. The going rate, set by Ieni, was €300 a ‘performance’ which could be oral, vaginal or anal sex and upwards of several thousand euro for a weekend away with “unlimited” services. The girls paid Ieni a portion of their earnings, which included charges for the use of the rooms in the apartment which were serviced by a regular cleaning lady. Pizzacalla, whose alleged role was to find men looking for underage sex, was paid directly from the clients. Prostitution is not illegal in Italy, but prostitution with an underage minor – the same offense Silvio Berlusconi was convicted of last year—is against the law.
In Ieni’s deposition, he told investigators that the girls’ young age “was the draw that helped lure customers,” according to court documents. “There is a real market for young, fresh girls like that.”
According to assistant prosecutor Maria Monteleone, the girls were addicted to the money. “They made a lot of money, more than 500—600 a day, which they didn’t want to give up.” Even after Ieni was arrested, the girls allegedly still kept some of their clients. According to the police reports, the payments could be made in cash, gifts or even cocaine, which the girls then sold back to Ieni.
Both girls are now in protective custody and receiving counseling for their ordeal and addiction to the easy money. Mussolini’s husband, who works for Italy’s state railway service, has denied involvement despite police photos of him getting out of a taxi at Via Parioli 190 where the girls met their customers and a string of cellphone text messages to the young prostitutes. The 16-year old, who had a tattoo on her arm with the Latin phrase “If you want peace, prepare for war” is said to be cooperating with the police. The 14-year-old is said to be suffering from severe psychological trauma.