ROME—One of QAnon’s wildest conspiracy theories claimed that the U.S. presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump with the help of two small-time Italian hackers who had somehow hijacked a satellite in order to change the results being counted on American voting machines.
It is now clear that this bizarro theory was not confined to the darker corners of the QAnon conspiracy network. The power of the U.S. State Department may have been pushed into action trying to prove that this was how President Biden stole the election.
An Italian prison official and a lawyer for the alleged hacking mastermind have told The Daily Beast that two Americans gained illicit access to one of the hackers inside an Italian prison—best known for its mafioso inmates—in the dying days of Trump’s term in office in a desperate bid to chase down this insane conspiracy.
The prospect of the U.S. State Department working on this theory was first raised last June when classified emails were released about the so-called #Italygate conspiracy, and fleshed out in Jonathan Karl’s book Betrayal, which scratches the surface of the controversy.
So convinced that the hackers were able to rig the satellites, Karl says Ezra Cohen, a Pentagon official at the time, asked the U.S. Embassy in Rome to deploy its defense attaché down to the southern port city of Salerno to interrogate hacker Arturo D’Elia and his partner in crime Antonio Rossi, who are serving time for hacking into an Italian military supply company.
The plot proved untrue, though it still lives on as “fact” in the dark corners of QAanon’s conspiracy network and is now the focus of an internal investigation by the Italian bureau of prisons.
The Daily Beast caught up with D’Elia’s lawyer Nicola Naponiello, who confirmed the Americans’ visit and who said that his client was “terrified” that people he presumed were American secret service agents were there to investigate him. “He did not agree to be interrogated and, in fact, no one should have had access to him without going through me,” Naponiello said. “It is beyond absurd.“
He says he is sure that the Americans were hoping to convince his client that in fact he had somehow inadvertently triggered the voting machine results and that if he would just admit that it might have happened, they’d leave him alone. Instead, D’Elia called his lawyer who quickly filed a complaint with the prison.
The Italians, in their thirties, are convicted of hacking the computer system of Italian military supply company Leonardo, Spa., which had nothing to do with U.S. satellites, American voting machines, or any election.
According to Betrayal, a fake heiress named Michele Roosevelt Edwards, who changed her name to Michele Ballarin and who at one time tried to save the now-defunct Italian airline Alitalia from bankruptcy and negotiate the release of a cargo vessel from Somali pirates, had hatched the idea and got someone to whisper it into Trump’s ear at a party in Mar-a-Lago.
Between negotiating with pirates and dreaming up conspiracies, Ballarin once unsuccessfully petitioned Italian parliamentarians, promising them $100 million to…