Italian Language Blog

Ti fregano anche da morto Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Italian Language, News

It never ceases to amaze me the variety of ways in which i furbi riescono a fregare la gente (cunning people manage to rip folk off). Here is a little story about a fregatura (scam) that I read in the newspaper Il Secolo XIX:

Tangenti sui morti, tre arresti – Bribes for the dead, three arrests

This particular scam was based at l’obitorio di Sarzana (the Sarzana morgue) near La Spezia in Liguria. The ‘associates in crime’ were a group of employees working for Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL) all’Ospedale di Sarzana (local health care at Sarzana Hospital) comprising necrofori (morgue workers) and infermieri (nurses). Here’s how it worked: 

As soon as a body arrived in the morgue, the necrofori would contact a ‘friend’ at one of the local onoranze funebri (funeral companies) offering to recommend to the relatives of the caro estinto (dearly departed) that they use their funeral services. In exchange for this ‘favor’ they would expect to receive una tangente (a bribe) of between 200 to 500 Euros. They even occasionally took payment in cocaine.

Meanwhile back at the morgue they would butter up the distraught relatives by telling them that they knew of a certain onoranze funebri who happened to be friends of theirs and who would carry out the funerale (funeral) for a very reasonable sum.

In some cases infermieri (nurses) working for the hospital would inform the necrofori of the impending death of a patient so that the whole process could begin even earlier. A number of local funeral directors were complicit in the crime, and in fact it became difficult for the honest ones who didn’t ‘subscribe’ to the scam to get enough work.

Here is an excerpt taken from the article:

NOMI IN CODICE “CAFFÈ” E “CAMPARI” – Names In Code “Coffee” and “Campari”

Per indicare che una persona era morta, e che i parenti erano all’obitorio, gli informatori avevano un codice preciso: parlavano di un “caffè”, di un “aperitivo”, o di “una macchina in panne”.

In order to indicate that a person was dead, and that the relatives were at the morgue, the informers had a precise code: they spoke of a “coffee”, an “aperitif” , or of “a broken down car”.

Erano scuse, giri di parole, con un preciso messaggio convenzionale: avvisavano l’impresario funebre che era il momento di scattare e presentarsi all’obitorio, per convincere i familiari a firmare il contratto funebre.

They were excuses, a play on words with a clear pre-agreed message: they advised the funeral directors that it was time to set off and present themselves at the morgue, and to convince the relatives to sign a funeral contract.

La mattina, il messaggio era quello del caffè; nelle ore successive, l’aperitivo. “Se c’è da prendere un morto – spiega un impresario ad una nuova recluta – mi devi dire questo: vieni a prenderti un caffè? E se è più tardi: andiamo a prenderci sto Campari?”

In the morning, the message was “caffè“; in the following hours, “l’aperitivo“. “If there’s a body to get hold of – explaines a funeral manager to a new recruit – you have to say this to me: are you coming for a coffee?  If it’s later: shall we go and have that Campari?”

Il codice funzionava bene: si parlava di uno, due, tre caffè, a seconda dei morti da piazzare. Oppure, si faceva la soffiata invitando l’impresario ad “andare su che c’è da far partire una macchina”.

The code worked well: one, two, or three coffees where mentioned depending on the amount of bodies to ‘place’. At other times the tip was given by inviting the funeral director to “go up because there’s a car to get started”.

Gli informatori tenevano in allerta già dalle fasi dell’agonia, per poi avvisare in tempo reale sui decessi: facevano una vera e propria pubblicità presso i parenti dei defunti, contando su una bella ricompensa.

The informants were already prepared when a patient was about to die, and updated in real time on the deaths. They did a really good publicity job on the relatives of the deceased, counting on a generous reward.

Oltre ai soldi girava anche un mare di coca, fra i membri della confraternita: un vai e vieni di “tiri” e di “righe da sniffare” anche in pieno giorno, e sul posto di lavoro.

Other than the money a large quantity of cocaine was circulated amongst the members of the ‘brotherhood’: a coming and going of “pulls” and “lines to sniff” even in broad daylight and in the workplace.

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  1. G Peter Dapiran:

    Is “tiri” better translated as “hits” in the context?

    • Serena:

      @G Peter Dapiran I don’t know the English jargon for cocaine use;), but we do use tirare to mean ‘draw’, as in ‘la stufa tira bene’ (the stove draws well), or ‘dare un tiro a una sigaretta’ (to draw/inhale on a cigarette), so ‘tiri’ in this context obviously has the same significance.


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