A criminal group from Peru dedicated principally to extortion of the construction sector has reportedly joined forces with similar groups in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia, an indicator the group is almost certainly diversifying its business portfolio.
According to Peruvian police, the Gran Familia, which has its roots in the coastal Peruvian city of Chiclayo, has built business connections with gangs that prey on the construction sector in other Andean nations, reported La Republica. Together, these organizations have reportedly carried out attacks on prominent businessmen.
The gang has allegedly recruited more criminals and has placed them in specialized roles based on nationality, according to police reports accessed by La Republica. Peruvian and Ecuadorean members are allegedly in charge of extortion, while the Colombians act as hired killers.
According to La Republica, the imprisoned former leader of the group, Angel Roman Leon Arevalo, alias "Viejo Paco," continues to direct some operations from jail. The coordinator working on the ground in Ecuador is allegedly Charles Orlando Palomino Bravo, alias "Chacho Palomino," one of Viejo Paco's chief operators.
The report comes two weeks after one of the group's high-level operatives was captured in Chiclayo in possession of passports that allowed him to move between Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Bolivia.
InSight Crime Analysis
It's unclear from the report to what extent the Gran Familia has moved operations into neighboring countries, but their goal in expanding is likely one or both of the following: escape law enforcement; establish new streams of income.
The Gran Familia appears to have reached a point where expansion is both necessary and possible. While the report indicates the group is continuing to focus on extortion abroad, it is also possible it could be looking to tap into neighboring drug markets. Police have accused the organization in the past of involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering as well as extortion, kidnapping, and homicide.
But groups like the Gran Familia, who depend mostly on muscle and intimidation to make their money, often find it harder to operate in foreign territory (see what happened to the Zetas in Guatemala).
SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles
Peruvian authorities dealt a serious, and some said "death" blow to the Gran Familia in 2012, with the arrest of Viejo Paco and several other high level members. However, La Republica's article follows on reports of the group moving its center of operations to Lima, members working as hired assassins in central Peru, and the incorporation of a new leader, who is the head of a security company -- all of which indicate the group is far from dismantled. The Gran Familia is also believed to operate with the help of corrupt police.