By Jonathan Mason-June 7th, 2023.
Tests carried out on human remains found in plastic bags dumped in a ravine in Mexico suggest they are those of workers who disappeared from a call center.
Eight young employees were reported missing in the days leading up to the gruesome discovery last week.
Investigators suspect the call center was a front for an illegal realty office aimed at defrauding and extorting US tourists.They think it was run by the notorious Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG).
It is not yet clear if the eight workers may have fallen foul of the CJNG or if they were targeted by members of a rival cartel.
The dismembered remains were found on 31 May in dozens of black bags ditched at the bottom of a deep ravine in Zapopan, in western Jalisco state.
The state government confirmed on Tuesday “that [the remains] are those of the young people who had been reported missing”. Six men and two women from the area disappeared between 20 and 31 May.
All of them worked at the same call center which is now under investigation for allegedly being used to defraud foreigners looking to buy timeshares in Mexican tourist resorts.
Jalisco state officials did not provide much detail about the dead but local media said they ranged in age between 23 and 37.
The first to vanish was Carlos García. The 31-year-old was last seen on 20 May. His case was not at first linked to the call center because his relatives had only mentioned that he worked for a “small business”.
But from 23 May, when the parents of 27-year-old Itzel Abigail and 23-year-old Carlos Valladolid reported the siblings’ disappearance, reports of disappearances of employees from the same call center came in thick and fast.
All but Carlos Garcia’s relatives had last had contact with the their loved ones on 22 May. Relatives of the Valladolid siblings said they had last heard from the pair as they were driving in their car that afternoon.
The mother of 30-year-old Arturo Robles said he had phoned her from the call center on the morning of 22 May, telling her “I’ve arrived at work, I’m going to have breakfast and then I’ll start working”. After that, the family did not hear from him again.
The partner of 37-year-old Jesús Salazar said she had received a last message from him as he arrived at the call center that same afternoon.
Mayra Velázquez, 29, Jorge Moreno, 28, and Juan Antonio Estrada, 34, all vanished on that same day.
The Jalisco state authorities have not yet revealed how, where or why the eight were killed but the prosecutor’s office said it was checking CCTV footage after locals told them they had seen armed men abduct a number of employees from the call center.
Inside the call centre, police found marijuana, blood-stained rags and whiteboards on which foreign names were written, local media reported.
The man who rents the premises is still being sought by police.
The mayor of Zapopan, where the call centre is located, said the business operated illegally and “did not have any licences”.
“It’s a house which operated without any kind of permit, it’s more when we checked it we noticed it was not really a proper call center at all, it was totally illicit,” the mayor said.
Milenio newspaper said the center was used to defraud US and Canadian citizens by selling them non-existent timeshare properties. The profits were allegedly used to pay the salaries of members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG).
Source: BBC News.