Stop us if you’ve heard this joke before. Five blondes and a brunette walk into a bar where a wealthy widow is drinking alone. The first blonde says, “That lady in the corner looks like she has a credit card.” The second blonde says, “I sort of look like her.” Then the third, fourth, and fifth blondes kidnap the widow at gunpoint, drive her to the nearest mall and max out all of her credit cards during a shopping spree of terror.
Doesn’t ring a bell? Then you clearly haven’t been to Brazil recently, where this week authorities finally managed to apprehend the infamous “Gang of Blondes.” According to the Agence France-Presse, these six Hollywood-beautiful young women are believed to have kidnapped more than 54 female victims in the past few years. While that might not be a record-breaking number as far as credit card fraud goes, the story is undeniably one of the most bizarre we’ve ever heard. Let’s take a look at how it all unfolded.
The Gang of Blondes got their start in crime by burglarizing condominiums around São Paulo. In 2009, though, they switched their focus to “express kidnapping,” a style of abduction that’s popular in Latin America. They began patrolling malls and supermarkets around São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in search of a female who looked like one of them and who seemed likely to be carrying a credit card. After they’d picked out a vulnerable woman, BBC Mundo reports, they’d follow the victim back to her car, kidnap her at gunpoint and force her to empty her pockets. They’d hold her captive while the chosen doppelganger headed back to the mall to max out the woman’s credit and debit accounts on luxury purchases.
“In one case, they bought 17,500 reales (nearly $9,700) worth of items with the cards, and took out more than 3,000 reales ($1,660) [in cash],” police officer Alberto Pereira told the AFP.
The police have been able to identify all six members of the Gang of Blondes thanks to testimony from the scores of women they’ve victimized. Over the weekend, authorities arrested three gang members as well as a male suspect, the possible coordinator. They plan to apprehend the other three members of the credit card crime ring this week.
What’s most surprising about this crime spree is that none of the women in the gang appear to actually have needed the money they stole. According to São Paulo police chief Joaquim Dias Alves, the gang members were all from the middle class and lived comfortable lives. “One or two speak more than one language, and some have been educated overseas,” he told BBC Mundo. “They are really pretty girls, well-dressed and made up.” The first member arrested, 25-year-old Carina Vendramini, lives in a nice condo 20 miles south of the city with her husband and two year-old daughter.
While we should be grateful to the Brazilian authorities for making their country a little bit safer for wealthy blondes, American consumers should also be glad that we’re protected from this kind of crime here in the States. Under the CARD Act, consumers can’t be held liable for more than $50 in fraudulent charges. This means that when a gang of gorgeous blonde abductors finally releases you here in America, all you have to do is report the incident to your card issuer. Your accounts will be restored as if nothing had ever happened. For women who enjoy the company of other women, that makes for a less stressful and far more satisfying abduction experience.