HomeNewsBrief'Guatemala Inmates Extorted 5 Star Hotels in El Salvador'
BRIEF

'Guatemala Inmates Extorted 5 Star Hotels in El Salvador'

EL SALVADOR / 28 MAR 2012 BY EDWARD FOX EN

Guatemala prison inmates have been accused of making threatening phone calls to large hotel chains in neighboring El Salvador, pointing to the growing popularity of long-distance extortion schemes.

Prosecutors from Guatemala and El Salvador are investigating an alleged extortion ring that was run from a maximum security prison (pictured) in Escuintla department, southern Guatemala. The gang reportedly targeted large businesses in neighboring El Salvador, among them the Sheraton and Hilton hotels, reports Prensa Libre.

According to the prosecutors handling the case, hotel owners and managers received threatening calls demanding up to $500,000 in payments. In some cases, after receiving the threats the victims transferred payments of $2,000 to $5,000 via Western Union.

Investigations managed to trace the origin of most of the phone calls back to the Infiernito maximum security prison in Escuintla. Other calls were traced back to the Guatemalan city of Jalapa.

Eight people have been arrested and sent to El Salvador where they will be tried for extortion. Prosecutors say they are currently investigating an additional 15 complaints. According to Prensa Libre, the group behind the long distance calls is known as the "Chapin" prison gang. They may have also tried to extort victims in Honduras.

InSight Crime Analysis

Extortion by cell phone is an attractive and relatively low-risk option for criminals. Callers can make threats sound convincing by exploiting information about the victim's personal life easily obtained from social networking websites, such as the names of their children or the vehicle that they drive. Callers may also claim to be affiliated to large criminal organizations like the Zetas, in order to amplify their threats.

The Guatemala case indicates that more groups are willing to place calls outside their native country. Guatemala has also reported receiving extortion threats from callers in Mexico, who have identified themselves as the Zetas.

Such extortion rings are typically run from inside prison, as seems to be the case with the so-called Chapin group. If they were able to successfully extort thousands of dollars from large companies across the border in El Salvador -- who presumably believed the gang would make good on their threats -- it points to just how easy it is for prison gangs to profit from these extortion schemes, often with little more than a phone number.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently announced that it would help train a new anti-extortion unit in El Salvador, where nearly 3,000 extortion cases were reported last year.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCAINE / 3 AUG 2021

An anti-narcotics operation in western Guatemala has shed further light on how families involved in local politics can play a…

EL SALVADOR / 5 AUG 2021

In two separate cases in El Salvador, mayors are accused of heading migrant smuggling rings, a crime that,…

ARGENTINA / 23 NOV 2021

A criminal borrowed the surname of the imprisoned Monos gang boss to receive extortion payments from businesses in the Argentine…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…