HomeNewsBriefHomeless People Abused to Smuggle Cell Phones in Costa Rica Jails
BRIEF

Homeless People Abused to Smuggle Cell Phones in Costa Rica Jails

CONTRABAND / 8 OCT 2019 BY SUKANTI BHAVE EN

A group that used homeless people to smuggle cell phones and drugs into Costa Rican prisons is under investigation, the second time such a ring has been exposed in two months.

The group recruited homeless men and women off the streets of San José and then forced them to visit prisons with the items hidden in their rectums or vaginas, reported La Nación.

Behind the ring were a brother and sister, who were arrested along with two other people and charged with human trafficking after a September 20 police raid. The traffickers gave the homeless people baths, new clothes and food, and then sent them to the prisons.

SEE ALSO: Costa Rica News and Profile

It’s unclear how long the group was in operation, but in late August, police arrested two men and a woman who attacked a man outside the Luis Paulino Mora prison in Alajuela. The man told police that the assault occurred after he refused to smuggle a cell phone into the prison. He left the visitors line twice until finally alerting authorities to the scheme.

InSight Crime Analysis

Cell phone smuggling by gangs and their accomplices is rampant in Costa Rica's prisons, and the abuse suffered by the homeless men and women is another example of vulnerable populations being exploited in the service of organized crime. 

Criminal groups pay between $100 and $700 to obtain the smuggled phones, which can be sold to inmates for as much as $1,400, according to La Nación. The inmates then often use the cell phones to continue their extortion rackets and drug trafficking operations outside prison walls.

SEE ALSO: The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The black market trade “moves a lot of money,” Pablo Bertozzi, Costa Rica’s prison director, told La Nación in June of 2018. 

Some 10,014 phones were confiscated in Costa Rican prisons between 2015 and 2018, but that amount represents only a portion of the phones circulating in the jails, according to authorities.

Part of the problem is that punishments are minimal for cell phone smuggling, and most people caught only receive small fines or even just warnings. This only fuels the trade and may even give smugglers more of an incentive to take risks -- such as with abusing homeless men and women. 

What's more, criminal groups have long taken advantage of at-risk populations. Human traffickers target impoverished girls and women for sex trafficking or to act as drug mules; cartels in Mexico recruit adolescents; and Venezuelan migrants in Colombia are used to pick coca leaves and for work as prostitutes.

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

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 11 FEB 2015

Costa Rican authorities have conducted a series of raid against what they believe is an international arms trafficking ring with…

BRAZIL / 8 NOV 2011

Authorities in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state have issued arrest warrants for nine people in connection with an extortion ring…

COCAINE / 16 MAY 2017

Security officials in Costa Rica say they are incapable of stopping transnational drug traffickers from using the country's pristine beaches…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…