HomeInvestigationsCourt Case Paints Picture of Disorganization in Brazil’s PCC

Court Case Paints Picture of Disorganization in Brazil’s PCC


The PCC is often described as Brazil’s most potent criminal gang, but a recent case against it paints a picture that belies the reputation of the group as a strict, hierarchical transnational criminal organization.

The case, which was brought by prosecutors in the Mato Grosso do Sul state in eastern Brazil in 2018, charged 30 people with being members of the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC).

Their crimes ranged from arms trafficking to drug peddling to money laundering to the use of minors to commit criminal acts. The group operated a series of small networks, or what prosecutors described in various instances as PCC “nucleus.” In reality, a nucleus could be members of the PCC or a combination of members, associates and relatives.

*This story is part of a two-year investigation into the PCC by the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University and InSight Crime. Read the complete series here. See full PDF here or download it from the Social Science Research Network.

Among the most prominent of crimes listed was drug peddling. Police and prosecutors displayed for the court numerous wiretaps in which several accused talked about selling drugs. In one wiretap, Dagner Saul Aguilar Gil, alias “Pacho,” a PCC member who was in jail in Mato Grosso do Sul, arranged to sell half a kilogram of “oleo” (marijuana) and 100 grams of “pó” (powder or cocaine) from a person identified as Marcos Ferreira da Silva, alias “Praia” (Beach). The two had done business before, and during the call, Ferreira reminds Aguilar to make sure the messenger brings the drugs, not him.

Send the drugs “like that [with a messenger],” Ferreira tells him. “So they are safe, so they are not lost, got it?”

The police were listening, and the messenger got caught anyway.

SEE ALSOPCC: A Prison from Which There Is No Escape

In something that typified the PCC in this case, Aguilar also managed stolen vehicles, and he maintained contact with a female prisoner, Odete, who, along with Ferreira, got the group weapons. Odete’s daughter, in turn, set up bank accounts for the group.

In fact, each of the group’s nuclei seems to work in a variety of criminal enterprises. As opposed to many transnational criminal groups, which keep to a small number of business ventures or parcel out ventures to specialists, the PCC seemed to be stretched thin.

The first of these nuclei described in the case had a motorcycle taxi driver who was the father of a jailed PCC member that brought drugs to the prison for his son. Another part of this first nucleus was captured in an apartment where the group was storing high-caliber weapons.

The owner of that apartment, prosecutors said, was a prisoner who, in addition to managing the weapons depot, was also the “general administrator of the state and the country,” which meant he was responsible for cataloging the membership of the PCC.

Although it is a prison gang, the PCC is arguably the most bureaucratic criminal organization in the region. It keeps registries of members, their members’ families, their members’ sponsors and their members’ record with the group.

The strict accounting practices and references to the hierarchy of the PCC often give them away. Prosecutors in the Mato Grosso do Sul case, for instance, made their case that several accused were members of the organization—a crime in Brazil—because of their references to a “Godfather,” which is PCC slang for sponsor, or to a “geral,”, a leader or “manager” in the group.

For example, one member of the first nucleus tells his father, the motorcycle taxi driver, that he is the “manager of the north region,” which prosecutors take to mean that he is responsible for all the drugs and weapons trafficking operations in the northern part of the state.

Police say another of the accused is the “manager of Rondônia state.” Proof, they say, is that he controls “baptisms” of new members in the neighboring state, as well as PCC’s strategy to expand and its battles with rivals in Rondônia, a key strategic corridor for drugs and illegal mining proceeds coming from Bolivia and Venezuela.

What’s more, the case makes numerous references to the “disciplina,” the name they use for the enforcers in the organization, especially as it relates to collecting “debts” from members who are dealing drugs. The threats are not idle.

“I took advantage of my meeting [with the person] and hurried [the person] up,” one accused tells another in a wiretapped conversation, referencing the imminent actions of the PCC’s “discipline” against a debtor.

But while there are illustrations of vertical power structures who exert strict control over the PCC’s operators, the case more often shows an organization that is loosely knit and whose willingness to use extended, inexperienced networks to do business costs them.

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Arguably the best illustration of this is the case of Tânia Cristina Lima de Moura. Described as the “right hand” of one of the PCC members in prison, Lima sets up bank accounts in the names of the PCC member’s daughter and grandson -- who prosecutors say was near 10 years old at the time -- and moves more than 50,000 reais (about $9,000) through the accounts. She also negotiates trading stolen trucks for drugs, a common PCC practice, and moving drugs from Mato Grosso do Sul to Campinas, a major city in the state of São Paulo. Lima was captured in June 2018.

In another example, the PCC employs a minor to move “skank” marijuana via bus. The minor is stopped en route and arrested with the drugs and an LG cellular phone the PCC gave him to communicate with the criminal group. In another case, a jailed PCC leader explodes on a wiretapped telephone line after another minor is arrested because he didn’t hide the drugs taped to his body.

“Look [at what just happened], I gave 4,500 reais for a kilo of Skank, and the guy is a joke,” the leader says.

Even the professionals the PCC use make silly errors. The prison guard the group employs is enmeshed in the case against the group because he fails to disguise his use of the internal police computer system -- Sistema Integrado de Gestão Operacional (SIGO)-- to find out about cases against PCC members.

In her verdict, the judge herself recognizes the difference between PCC operative, PCC lackey and what you might call none-of-the-above. Of the 30 members indicted, 23 were convicted.

*This story is part of a two-year investigation into the PCC by the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University and InSight Crime. Read the complete series here. See full PDF here or download it from the Social Science Research Network.

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