This is a story you might have to read twice to believe. Italian police have reportedly arrested 20 gladiator impersonators operating around Rome's various tourists sites in an actual undercover sting operation aimed at ending a violent scam in which the fake gladiators allegedly attacked each other with swords to vie for tourist photo opportunities. Did you get that straight?
Yes, police, disguised as gladiators, garbage collectors and "innocent" bystanders busted the gang allegedly made up of seven families working with five tourist agencies.
AFP brings us the details of this truly bizarre story:
The modern gladiators are accused of attacking and intimidating competitors for a lucrative business in which gladiators collect up to 10 euros ($14) for having their picture taken alongside tourists in front of attractions.
The police officers disguised as gladiators were beaten up by the alleged criminal gladiators before other undercover officers swooped in.
"Gladiators" are a feature of the Roman landscape for tourists, with men decked out in bright red capes, helmets with plumes of red feathers and sandals while carrying swords and round shields.
They can be found outside the Colosseum, Castel Sant'Angelo, Piazza Venezia and even in front of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, preying on the millions of tourists who pass through Rome every year.
According to reports, these criminals divided up tourist sites as if it were gang turf.
One doesn't know whether to laugh or shake one's head. The world economy may be in "ruins" but this is one creative, and desperate way to earn a little cash.
NBC provides the bizarre report: