As the number of kidnapping cases continues to rise in Mexico, it appears that gangs are becoming more creative in snaring victims.
The latest example involves Margarita Navarro, a 28-year old woman who allegedly seduced her victims at shopping malls and bars in the Lindavista suburb of Mexico City with the promise of sex, according to Mexico City's District Attorney.
The romance came to a sudden end when victims arrived at Navarro’s apartment. There, a local gang of kidnappers would beat victims and hold them hostage for days, prosecutors say.
Victims were usually released after ransom payments were made, but in one of the three cases currently being investigated, a businessman who followed Navarro to her home was eventually killed, even though his family paid for his release.
Navarro was arrested on Aug. 3 and is awaiting trial in a Mexico City prison. A judge issued a “formal act of imprisonment” against her on Saturday, a judicial order that remanded her until she can prove her innocence.
If Navarro is proven guilty, she would not be the first Mexican woman to lure kidnapping victims with her looks.
In 2010, officials in Tijuana arrested 23-year-old Nancy Michelle Mendoza on similar charges. Mendoza collaborated with a gang of kidnappers called the “Palillos,” who were clashing with the Arellano Felix drug cartel.
A mugshot of Mendoza, taken by Mexican officials after her arrest
According to Mexican prosecutors, Mendoza participated in the kidnappings of 13 men, including the brother-in-law of Chuy Labra, a drug lord who worked for the Arellano cartel.
Labra’s brother-in-law was an instructor at a San Diego gym, Mexican newspaper El Universal noted:
“For months Mendoza tried to seduce him… She wore tight shirts, which showed lots of cleavage, and that is how eventually it was possible to kidnap him.”
While the Mexican government has reduced the number of homicides stemming from drug violence in the past two years, kidnappings have risen as criminal groups expand to non-drug related activities.
According to Mexico’s National System for Public Security, there were 1,695 kidnappings reported in Mexico in 2013, up from 1,407 in 2012. Human rights groups estimate that in 2013 there were over 2,500 kidnappings in Mexico.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.