(SAO PAULO, Brazil) — Brazilian police are searching for a group of unlikely kidnappers and thieves: young, middle class women.
The “gang of blondes,” so called because all but one of the members have blonde hair, is operating in Sao Paulo, targeting wealthy women in shopping centers, the city’s anti-kidnap police unit told BBC.
Police have identified six suspects, who allegedly follow victims to their cars and steal their valuables, credit cards and security codes. Then, while part of the group holds the victim at gunpoint, the others go on a shopping spree, buying mostly electronics and designer clothes, as well as taking money from ATMs, BBC Mundo reports.
The gang targets other young, blonde women, posing as the victims while using their credit cards in stores.
“One or two speak more than one language, and some have been educated overseas,” Joaquim Dias Alves, Sao Paulo civil police anti-kidnap division chief told BBC Mundo. “They are really pretty girls, well-dressed and made up.”
The gang is thought to be highly organized, operating for at least three years with at least 50 victims, a number that continues to grow due to media coverage, Alves said.
Police say they’ve begun breaking up the gang, arresting three suspects, including one man, BBC reports.
“Express kidnappings” like these, where victims are kidnapped and robbed or held for a small ransom, are common in Latin America, particularly in Mexico and Venezuela.
The most recent high-profile case happened in Nov. 2011, when Wilson Ramos, a Washington Nationals catcher, was kidnapped for ransom from his home in Venezuela.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN
Lauren del Valle, CNN
Andreas Preuss, CNN