MILAN, Italy — A 20-year-old British model on her way to photo shoot in Italy was abducted by a criminal syndicate that threatened to auction her off to the highest bidder on a pornographic website unless her agent ponied up $300,000 in cash, police said.
The woman was rescued after six days in captivity during which she was drugged, stuffed in a suitcase and chained to a dresser in a remote farmhouse near Turin, police said.
After the near-week of horror, the woman was then driven back to Milan and released near the British consulate because she had a 2-year-old child and the group said they had a rule against abducting mothers, Italian media reported.
A man who accompanied the woman back to Milan was arrested by police. They identified him as Lukasz Herba, 30, a Polish national who lives in the U.K.
Investigators said Herba claimed to have been working for an organization called the “Black Death Group” which purportedly abducts young women and sells them into sex slavery on the dark web.
Detectives have found evidence of the group boasting of having organized such auctions online in the past, but it wasn’t clear if actual abducted women were involved.
The woman — whose name has not been publicly revealed — had been lured to an abandoned storefront in Milan from Paris on July 10 by an offer of a photo shoot that had been arranged through her agent.
But police say when she arrived, two men grabbed her, handcuffed her and stuffed her in a suitcase. They then tossed the bag in a car and drove two hours to the farmhouse where she was chained to a wooden dresser for the next six days.
The kidnappers then used encrypted email accounts to send messages to her agent demanding cash for her release.
The Italian police say the investigation has stretched to Poland and the United Kingdom to identify further accomplices.