Fact vies with fantasy in ‘Black Death’ model kidnap case

LONDON (AP) — The man accused of kidnapping a British model in Italy painted a picture of big money, international intrigue and spine-chilling dealings as a member of Black Death, an organization selling drugs, guns and murder on the dark web.

The reality of Lukasz Pawel Herba’s life appears to be more prosaic, riddled with exaggerations and contradictions. Investigators are picking through his story to sift truth from myth — and uncover whether the shadowy Black Death group really exists.



Italian police have arrested 30-year-old Herba over the abduction of Chloe Ayling, who says she was lured to Milan on the pretext of a photo shoot. When she arrived, she says she was drugged, stuffed into a suitcase and held at a rural house by criminals who threatened to auction her into sexual servitude, while also demanding a $300,000 ransom from her agent.

Six days after the alleged July 11 abduction, Herba took Ayling to the British Consulate in Milan. He was detained on suspicion of kidnapping to extort money and falsifying documents.



Herba was born in Poland and lives in Oldbury, a town in the West Midlands area of central England. He shared an apartment in a low-rise building with his elder brother Michal, who is registered as running a road haulage firm. British police searched the apartment after Lukasz’s arrest, and say they took away computers for forensic examination.

Local resident Sinead Boyce told Britain’s Sun newspaper that Herba rarely spoke to his neighbors, and was sometimes seen wandering around with a rat on his shoulder.

On Facebook, Herba claimed to be chairman of the board of Karmerg, a company whose website describes it as “a well-recognized technology trade expert” in the fields of chemistry, electronics, biology and physics. There is no public listing in Britain for such a company. The website lists the names and email addresses of several alleged employees, none of whom responded to requests for comment.



On a website lurking in the murkier depths of the internet, Black Death claims to be “an organized crime group based in eastern Europe.” Its home page, captured by EU police agency Europol, contains a picture of figures wearing pointed masks associated with the 14th-century bubonic plague.

The site lists services including blackmail, murder, the supply of guns, bombs and drugs and the sale of trafficked women. Three alleged women for sale are listed, with ages, nationalities and…

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