(TODAY COLOMBIA) – A prostitution ring that offered underage girls to the criminal gang Clan Úsuga has been taken down thanks to cooperative efforts by the Colombian Army, National Police, and Attorney General’s Office.
Their work culminated in the late April arrest of Briseda Machado, the ring’s alleged pimp, along with 71 members of Clan Úsuga. Machado, also known as “Paola,” is 24, illiterate — and regarded as one of the organized crime group’s most important leaders. Its top leaders — Darío Antonio Úsuga David, who is also known as “Otoniel,” and his top lieutenant, Roberto Vargas Gutiérrez — were allegedly both Machado’s customers. She also allegedly provided prostitutes to Luis Orlando Padierna, who is known by the alias “Inglaterra.”
Before the Police’s Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (DIJIN) captured her, Paola lived with her family in a ramshackle house in Antioquia. The arrests cap a two-year investigation that included surveillance and wiretaps.
Providing underage females to gang members
Allegedly, during that investigation, a Clan Úsuga member would call Paola and ask for two or three females for a party every week. Often, they would ask for “zero kilometer” girls for their “dads,” a code phrase that referred to underage virgins for their commanders. In one case, Paola readily agreed, and even offered her own 11-year-old sister when one of the minors she had contacted cancelled at the last minute, according to a wiretapped conversation.
“Well, if the ‘zero kilometers’ won’t come and your little sister is ready, then tell her to come…,” an unidentified Clan Úsuga member told Paola.
“And who will she be with, your dad? … Tell him I’ll bring him the girl, but it must be with him,” she replied. “I don’t want her to be with some other brute.” In the end, Paola Machado didn’t take her sister because she found another girl to replace her.
Machado allegedly recruited underage girls at some schools in the department of Antioquia, especially in the towns of Apartadó, Carepa, Necoclí, Turbo, and Chigorodó. She lured the girls with promises of money, cell phones, motorcycles, and clothes, which they would receive from the men with whom they had sex.
There are no exact figures on the number of girls that Machado prostituted, but DIJIN investigators estimate that she would send at least two or three girls every week to some Clan Úsuga hideout in the Urabá. Phone calls asking for “zero kilometers” or regular girls would rise at the end of month, when the criminal organization pays its members.
Having been convinced by Machado, the girls would usually travel an hour by car and another hour by mule to reach the criminal organizations’ parties. There they would be asked to wear special kinds of underwear by the Clan’s leaders, who, after sexually abusing them, would sometimes regale them with gifts, such as expensive clothes or money for breast augmentation surgery. The parties, organized with Paola’s help, went on for at least two years.
Though Paola is not officially a Clan Úsuga operative, security forces captured her along with 71 members of the gang. The National Police, with support from the Army and the Attorney General’s Office, raided hideouts in four departments, seized 84 mobile phones, computers, and memory sticks, and detained 65 regular members, six ringleaders, and Machado.
The arrests were part of Operation Agamemnón, an ongoing joint operation that began on February 3. The National Police and the Army have deployed 1,200 and 1,000 men, respectively, to capture “Otoniel” and “Gavilán,” whom authorities suspect are behind many of the sexual abuse cases that Colombian authorities have detected.
The National Police is currently trying to identify and assist the girls that were abused as part of Machado’s prostitution ring. Authorities are also working to capture any other people that might have helped Machado recruit girls in local schools or neighboring towns.
Article originally appeared on Todaycolombia.com