Brazil police hunt 'Gang of Blondes' kidnappers

A gang of women -- described as blonde, bilingual and well educated -- have been taking Brazilian shopping malls by storm, kidnapping female shoppers and maxing out their credit cards, police say.

Over the weekend police in Sao Paulo arrested three members of the so-called "Gang of Blondes," which has been credited with 54 express kidnappings here and in Rio de Janeiro since their crime spree began in 2008.

The arrests include a man that coordinated operations, Brazilian news media reported.

"The group started out by breaking into condominiums, but in 2009 got into the business of express kidnapping," Jorge Carlos Carrasco with the Sao Paulo police Homicide Department told reporters.

The victims were other women much like them.

Police said gang members would follow a potential victim in broad daylight, often in a shopping mall or a supermarket, to assess their wealth.

Then two women would hold the victim as she entered her car, while two others would assume the victim's identity and run up their credit card or empty their bank accounts at ATM machines.

"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 reporters.

Police said they have identified all six members of the gang with help from the victims, who say they were mistreated while being held.

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