Cult leader Rocco Leo told disabled woman that cash would save her

Adelaide Now/June 3, 2010

A "profoundly vulnerable" wheelchair-bound disabled woman was told she would die a horrible death unless she handed her life savings to doomsday cult leader Rocco Leo.

And in exchange, he would bring her to a mystery island and miraculously help her walk again.

The startling claims have surfaced during civil action launched by Silvia Melchiorre, 37, against Leo and senior members of Agape Ministries, Joe and Marie Antoinette Veneziano.

Ms Melchiorre is suing the trio for $500,000, including the $420,000 she handed over after selling her house, lost rental income, costs and damages.

They have not been seen since police raided 13 properties associated with the cult last month, uncovering a cache of weapons and ammunition.

The District Civil Court was told her case would be the first of many involving followers of the Agape Ministries cult.

Ms Melchiorre was left in a wheelchair after suffering a series of strokes caused by a brain tumour, leaving her with a "restricted capacity to read and communicate".

The court was told that between 2008 and 2009, Leo and his fellow church leaders convinced her that the entire population of the world was about to be fitted with tiny microchips which the government would use to control people.

They told her that anyone who refused to have the "chip" inserted under their skin would be arrested and branded as terrorists.

"(They would be) rounded up by the government and confined to concentration camps where ultimately they would be exterminated," the document says.

"The government intended to begin rounding people up commencing in or about June 2010 and that unless the plaintiff escaped from Australia in May or June 2010, she would not be able to escape and ultimately would be killed in concentration camps either by gassing or being beheaded."

It was alleged Leo said her other option was to accompany members of the Agape Ministries to their South Pacific island, where she would be healed.

"The healing waters of The Island would cure the plaintiff and would be able to walk again," the statement of claim says.

In a recent hearing, Barrister David Riggall, for Ms Melchiorre, asked that Leo's bank accounts and assets be frozen while his whereabouts remained a mystery.

Mr Riggall said Leo had promised to return Ms Melchiorre's money but later fled when police executed a series of raids on properties linked to the Agape Ministries.

The matter will continue in court on June 16.

The court ordered Leo's assets and accounts be frozen until further notice.

Ms Melchiorre's family declined to comment.

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