An Italian stretcher-bearer suspected of intentionally killing patients to get payouts from a funeral home allegedly linked to the mafia was arrested Thursday in a scandal investigators are calling the "ambulance of death".
The scheme, dubbed the "Ambulance of Death" by police, had reportedly been going on since 2012 and potentially involves many other victims. Garofalo claims that all patients died from natural causes.
The modus operandi of the 'ambulance of death' driver was to kill the patients during transport from the Biancavilla hospital to their homes.
The gruesome practice emerged earlier this year from a television investigation, in which an alleged accomplice-turned-informant, a 28-year-old local, said: "People were not dying by the hand of God".
He fatally injected the victims as he took them back to their homes in the town of Biancavilla, the BBC reported.
He is then said to have recommended a funeral agency linked to the Sicilian mafia to their families, for which he was paid a 300 Euro fee.
The victims are an elderly man and woman, and a 55-year-old man, according to La Repubblica newspaper.
Senior police officer Raffaele Covetti described the killings a "particularly cruel way to die".
The 42-year-old stands accused of killing at least three patients but officials fear the number could be as high as 50. Witnesses had only been prepared to talk because several clan members had already been jailed as part of a broader ongoing operation, he said.
Mr Garofalo has been charged with three counters of voluntary homicide.