Sun, May 13, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Mexico police busts eyedrop scam ring

UNHOLY COCKTAIL A chilling robbery and murder scheme operated by the capital's underworld used various mixes of tranquilizers and flirtatious women to lure victims

AP , MEXICO CITY

Police have busted a Mexican crime ring that used flirtatious young women to rob men after slipping sedatives or eyedrops into their drinks, resulting in the deaths of almost two dozen victims, evidence released on Friday showed.

The case file provided by Mexico City prosecutors revealed a chilling robbery and murder scheme that was long rumored to exist in the capital's underworld but in fact operated in 10 states over several years.

Known as the goteras or "eyedroppers" for allegedly tranquilizing victims with certain kinds of eyedrops and other drugs that can be lethal when mixed with alcohol, the gang is suspected in 23 deaths and 28 other robbery cases since 2004, the Mexico City Attorney General's Office said.

Substances found in some eyedrops -- especially those used by doctors to relax eye muscles during examinations -- can be toxic if swallowed and can lead to coma or death.

Authorities said 10 suspects -- five men and five women -- have been arrested in a series of raids starting last month.

"One, two or as many as four women in a restaurant, bar or night club would start flirting from their table, with the intention of being invited over by their future victims," the case file said.

"They adopted an attitude of being willing to have sex, the file said."

The women allegedly would then lure men to seedy hotels or private homes where they served them drinks laced with knockout drugs.

One victim "passed out within a few minutes and when he awoke was nauseated, had a headache and blurred vision," the case file read.

"Upon regaining consciousness, he realized that his friend had died and the women they had been partying with had stolen several of their possessions," it said.

At least one American was robbed by the gang, but did not die.

Authorities said the gang tried to knock the victims out for as long as possible -- usually about 12 hours, long enough to cash checks, drain bank accounts and rack up credit card purchases.

It was unclear whether the deaths were intentional or due to lack of knowledge about dosage.

Prosecutors began investigating several years ago after men started turning up dead in homes and hotels, from similar causes: respiratory congestion, swelling and fluid buildup in the brain or lungs, hemorrhages and heart attacks.

Police were still investigating and said the gang may have had dozens of members.

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