PCC gang members in Brazil monitored police on social media and invaded their homes disguised in worker's uniforms -- in a brazen, hit-squad like attempt on their lives.
The country’s most notorious prison gang, First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) was preparing to kill 12 public security officials, including police officers and prison guards, according to the civil police organized crime unit (Delegacia Especializada de Combate ao Crime Organizado – DECO). The arrest of the gang members revealed the death squad’s sophisticated surveillance techniques.
PCC members first gathered intelligence using open sources, like social networks, to find information about their targets, authorities said. They also monitored official webpages of the government and the state’s Diário Oficial to remain up to date on officials’ post transfers. The information was then sent to criminal leaders in prison.
SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profile
Other gang members carried out field operations. Most had debts to the PCC leadership, and the planned killings were a way to pay them off. Using the information obtained online, they surveilled the officers and their relatives, friends, and colleagues, staking out their homes and vehicles, and learning their daily routines. They even entered their targets’ homes disguised as cable guys.
Police suspect that the killing of a 25-year-old soldier was the first and only successful murder of the dozen planned. One of the four suspects arrested in the killing had been released from prison just three weeks earlier.
The same faction of the gang also hired private detectives to monitor the routines of public servants, allowing them to execute three federal prison officers, authorities said.
InSight Crime Analysis
The revelation of a death squad-like unit inside the PCC highlights the gang’s growing sophistication, and demonstrates how far its members are willing to go in their fight against the state.
The PCC, formed by prisoners in the 1990s, has developed into Brazil’s largest and most organized criminal structure, greatly expanding into into Paraguay and Bolivia, where it is involved in drug and arms trafficking.
SEE ALSO: PCC News and Profile
The criminal group’s operational skill was put on display in 2017, when a squad stole $11.7 million in cash from private security company Prosegur, in a commando style heist. In the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este, the gang set cars ablaze, sprayed gunfire into the company headquarters, and then used explosives to blast their way into the vault containing the cash. Between 50 and 60 gang members took part in the heist before fleeing by boat back to Brazil.
In 2018, authorities seized financial ledgers, detailing the gang's income streams, money laundering tactics and membership growth. According to the documents, the PCC’s illicit activities could earn the group at least $100 million and perhaps up to $200 million annually.
For all these reasons, InSight Crime named the PCC one of its three criminal ‘winners’ of 2018, calling the group one of the Americas’ most important criminal structures to watch. Its recent hit squad operation lays bare why this is so.