Italian Police Bust Ferrari Counterfeiters

ROME -- Italians are used to buying bogus Gucci bags or Rolex watches to look stylish, but police found a new height of craftsmanship and cunning when they broke up a ring selling fake Ferrari cars for a fraction of the real price.

Police accused 15 people of building the blood-red sports cars and selling them to auto fanatics on a budget, most of whom knew they were buying a counterfeit classic.

The ring used mostly Pontiac frames, but also Mercedes and Toyotas, building a copy of a Ferrari body over the original car's engine. "It was done very well, they were very skilled," said Guido Geremia, head of the Palermo unit of the Italian financial police, which led the investigation.

Police have confiscated 14 fake Ferrari Modena 360s -- seven sold and seven under construction -- in an operation reaching from Palermo to Milan, Geremia said.

Some of the cars sold for about 20,000 euros ($30,000), about one-tenth of the going price for some versions.

The financial police, who lead Italy's fight against counterfeiters cashing in on the peninsula's reputation for quality in everything from handbags to prosciutto, opened the Ferrari investigation six months ago. Geremia said they were aided by Internet sites where the cars were being offered.