HomeNewsExtortionists Copycat Argentina's Monos Gang

A criminal borrowed the surname of the imprisoned Monos gang boss to receive extortion payments from businesses in the Argentine city of Rosario – a play that smacks of a copycat or franchise operation.

Prosecutors allege that Gastón Ezequiel Escalante attempted to extort large sums of cash from businesses by posing as a Monos gang member named Pablo Cantero. Cantero is the surname of the fearsome clan's boss, Ariel Máximo Cantero, alias "Guille."

"I am the guy who is going around collecting in the area," Escalante can be heard saying in a recording included in court documents accessed by news outlet El Litoral.

Authorities said that no Pablo Cantero exists in the group.

SEE ALSO: The Monos Profile

Escalante, who is in prison on gang-related charges, demanded up to 10,000 pesos per week (about $100) in protection money from business owners. Those who refused faced their establishments being riddled with bullets or torched by Molotov cocktails, a tactic used by the Monos in the past and one recently adopted by other criminal groups in Rosario to intimidate their enemies.

Two of Escalante's associates collected the money, according to authorities. They were also charged in the case, which went before a judge in mid-November.

InSight Crime Analysis

Copycat extortion is a dangerous game played in other regions of Latin America home to violent gangs.

The tactic is particularly common in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where deadly street gangs impose control through extortion.

Countless criminals have passed themselves off as members of the feared Barrio 18 and MS13 gangs in order to extort victims. Guatemalan officials claim that one in four extortion attempts are the work of copycats, while El Salvador police officials say impersonators could be behind more than half of all extortion attempts.

SEE ALSO: Copycat Extortionists: Guatemala’s Criminal Chancers

In Argentina, the Monos have dominated Rosario's criminal landscape for more than two decades. Monos boss "Guille" Cantero has also shown a striking ability in recent years to continue to run the group's operations from his prison cell.

Impersonating a gang leader to collect from businesses on the group's behalf, though, is a far riskier tactic than the typical copycat. This raises the question of whether the Monos may be franchising: allowing other criminal gangs to use the Monos name for a cut of proceeds.

In Colombia, large criminal groups have been known to expand their influence this way. For example, the Urabeños have allowed gangs to use their name in certain territories to facilitate their drug trafficking or to take on rival groups.

The Monos may be making a similar move, which would provide them greater strength on the streets of Rosario while much of their leadership is in prison.

Whatever the case may be, the Cantero name clearly carries weight.

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

ARGENTINA / 18 SEP 2019

Relatives of imprisoned drug traffickers charged fees from other families to let them in to see their loved ones in…

EXTORTION / 25 MAY 2021

A settling of scores in Guatemala left at least eight people dead after the son of a long-dead druglord took…

EXTORTION / 5 FEB 2014

Mexico mining companies extorted by criminal groups are reportedly paying Michoacan self-defense forces for protection, a development that places the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…