“Like zombies.” This is how patrons of a well-known Madrid nightclub described being left by a prostitution ring that drugged clients in order to secure succulent amounts from their credit cards. In some cases the victims were relieved of up to 40,000 euros without being conscious that they were being robbed, according to the National Police.
There have been 11 arrests in the case and 17 reported victims, but the latter number is expected to rise. The police estimate that the ring stole around 330,000 euros over the past year.
The chosen club in the Colón area of the capital was frequented by celebrities and members of the judiciary. The prostitutes, mostly from Cuba, Argentina and Romania, would take their clients from the club to an hourly rental apartment where they would offer a luxurious catering service. There they would serve drinks and food containing a potent cocktail based on what police believe to be scopolamine, a mind-altering sedative derived from the scopolia genus of plants native to Central America.
Once victims had divulged their details under the influence of the drug, their cards would be cleaned out using various payment machines the ring possessed. In some cases, the victim also provided a PIN number. When they regained their senses, the clients would find themselves wandering in the street or in a taxi.
The alleged ringleader, Antonio M. de P., 47, had no previous arrests on record. He was aided by his mother, an aunt and another accomplice. The police seized 15 payment machines and 70 grams of the sedative substance at the apartment.