A Brazilian woman accused of heading a prostitution ring that recruited only 15-year-old and younger girls has been detained by the police of Brazil. Mariana Brandão, who was arrested in Campo Grande, capital of the midwestern state or Mato Grosso do Sul, induced the youngsters through newspaper ads and talking to them at the school door.
When she met a beautiful student she would strike a friendly conversation and explain that she could make lots of money the easy way.
In an interview to Fantástico, the Globo TV show, which broke the news about the ring, a 14-year-old, talked about her experience with Brandão: "She said that it would be easy money and that there was no need to work hard."
The young lady revealed that the woman was insistent and that she resisted the lady three times, but ended up accepting her offer the fourth time around.
"The woman used to pick me up close to my home," the girl explained. "She would then take me to her house where men would come and choose among many girls." According to her, some days there were up to 15 of them, some as young as 12.
The teen told more. That she was convinced by the madam to sell her virginity. "She separated the girls who were virgins. This man arrived and chose me."Â The girl disclosed that for that special sexual encounter the john paid her 150 reais (US$ 82). She kept 100 reais (US$ 55) for herself, the rest went for the lady.
Mariana Brandão tries to put on an air of innocence when talking to reporters. Says she, "I stopped doing this as soon as I found out that this girl was a minor."
Brandão is not the only game in town. The Fantástico through a show producer, who passed for a candidate to call girl, called an advertiser looking for prostitutes. A man on the other side of the line told her: "First I have to meet you and if you match what we are looking forÂ then you'll have it made for the rest of your life."
For child and youth judge, Carlos Alberto Garcette de Almeida, typically there is a gigolo involved, who creates a situation of dependence in which the girl owes the man more than she is able to pay back: "Due to these debts created by this marginal she is always owing him money and she is not able to leave this life."
In Campo Grande, newspaper ads offer jobs for escorts who wish to live in the interior of São Paulo or Paraná, in the south of the country. One ad tells that the job is only for 18 year old girls or older. But when the Fantástico's producer, posing as a candidate for the position, tells that she wants to bring a minor friend with her, the man on the phone proposes an arrangement:
"She might get herself a false ID. I'm not supposed to know if the document is false or legitimate,"Â says the night-club owner.
For Mota, from the Child Protection Office, this kind of crime is very hard to investigate: "The problem is that the girls do not behave as they are victims. Often they protect the seducer and they also protect their customers."
Data in the last six years from a service called Dial 100 (Disque 100), created by Brazil's Special Secretariat for Human Rights, show that in Brazil, Mato Grosso do Sul loses only to Brasília, the Federal District, for sexual exploitation of minors.
Sexual encounters with minors in Campo Grande, according to the police, often happen during the afternoon when the girl's parents are working. These trysts by and large take place in motels whose owners many times are part of the prostitution scheme.Â
Campo Grande's Child Protection Bureau gets an average of 80 tips a month about minors being sexually abused. They give a portrait of the most common violators:
"Usually they are older men in their 40s, 50s, 60s. One of these customers was 79 years old. They are middle-class, high-middle-class men," says the officer from the Child and Adolescent Protection Office,Â Regina Márcia Rodrigues da Mota.
Some girls are taken to other states with fake documents. A mother told reporters that she almost lost her 14-year-old daughter. The recruiters had already prepared her new ID card where she was made to be 18.
In Brazil the crime of inducing prostitution has a maximum penalty of five years of jail time;Â domestic trafficking of people carries an eight-year sentence; sex exploitation of minors, ten years.
Prostitutes Made in Brazil
At the end of last month, the Brazilian Federal Police started an operation to halt the export of Brazilian women to the United States and France. There were 15 warrants of arrest and 10 warrants of search and seizure in several Brazilian states and in Las Vegas, in the United States.
The operation took place instantaneously in the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba (Brazil), Las Vegas, Paris (France), Santo DomingoÂ and Punta Cane (Dominican Republic). Twelve people, nineÂ Brazilians and three Americans were arrested during the so-called Harem Operation
According to the Federal Police, during their six-month investigation, it was discovered a scheme based in Brazil to send Brazilian women to be high class call girls to be exploited overseas. At least 200 of them were trafficked. Many of them ended up working in Las Vegas casinos. Many of the women were already working as prostitutes in Brazil.
Those caught by the police may get up to eight years in prison for fostering prostitution, pimping, international trafficking of people for prostitution purposes, as well as gang formation.
The activity generated about US$ 8 million a month. Ten bank accounts from women participating in the scheme were frozen. They were making in average US$ 40,000 a month. It's not clear, however, how much of this the call girls kept for themselves. The police also seized several computers as evidence.
The Brazilian authorities were helped during their investigation by agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Interpol and police officers of the United States and the Dominican Republic, who also made some arrests.
The Brazilian Federal Police say that not all women knew they were going to work as prostitutes overseas. Some were enticed with false promises of a legitimate job. These women were recruited in several states including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Minas Gerais and Bahia.