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The disturbing real life story that inspired Netflix's new show 'Baby'.

International shows on Netflix have been having a major moment in 2018.

One of its newest offerings, Italian series Baby, follows the lives of students at an exclusive high school in Rome.

Two of the students – Chiara (Benedetta Porcaroli) and Ludovica (Alice Pagani) – turn to teen prostitution to make money in the controversial series.

It is a disturbing premise, made even more horrifying when you learn that it is inspired by true events.

The real life scandal, dubbed the ‘Baby Squillo’ scandal (which roughly translates to baby prostitute) was uncovered in 2013 when a 14-year-old and 15-year-old from Rome’s wealthy Parioli district were found to be at the centre of an underage prostitution ring.

According to Italian media reports from 2013, the two girls – who were referred to by pseudonyms Angela and Agnese – started after they searched ‘easy money’ on Google. They wanted to be independent and buy luxury goods.

They followed an ad which led them to their future pimps: Mirko Ieni and military officer Nunzio Pizzacella.

Ieni rented an apartment where the girls would meet clients after school.

They would earn about 500-600 euros a day, with Ieni taking a cut of the money, and began purchasing designer clothes, makeup and other expensive products.

“I wanted a lot of money and I didn’t want to miss out on having on anything,” Angela, the older girl, told prosecutors according to the investigative documents seen by the Daily Beast.

The younger girl’s mother became involved in the ring, with Agnese providing money to help pay for household bills.

In a horrifying phone call wiretapped by police, Agnese pleads with her mother that she is unable to work because she needs to catch up on schoolwork and does not feel well.

After telling her daughter she needed to work because she was short of money, the mother offers her suggestions including how she could study for a few hours before or after work or that she could work alternate days.

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The Italian Insider reported that Agnese’s mother was sentenced to six years in prison and stripped of all parental rights.

The ring was discovered when the mother of the other girl, Angela, became suspicious of her daughter’s increased income and called police.

High profile clients – including businessmen, police, UN staff members and government officials – contributed to huge media sensation and public interest throughout Italy.

A list of 50 clients included police officer Mauro Floriani, the husband of Alessandra Mussolini – a far-right politician and granddaughter of fascist leader Benito Mussolini

While prostitution is legal in Italy, the legal age for sex is 18. Police believe the clients were well aware of the girls were underage.

Multiple clients received fines and prison sentences. Ieni was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Pizzacalla to seven.

Baby has been criticised by the US National Center of Sexual Exploitation for ‘trivialising’ sex trafficking and sexual abuse of minors but the series creators have defended their show.

Director Andrea De Sica told IndieWire the subject matter was difficult, but the show does not include nudity and is more about the “psychological problem of the free will of the teenager, getting into this night world, which can sometimes be scary and their choices and the consequences.”

“It was important to have respect for the subject and for the girls and not try to judge or to say ‘poor victims,’ but to try to understand what is going on in a 16-year-old girl, who is feeling totally detached from the world and falling into this world of the night, which is clubs, older people, and all this stuff that is actually very real and contemporary.”

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