Skip to main content

Colombian accused of selling virginity of 12 daughters

By Mariano Castillo and Rafael Romo, CNN
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Mon October 28, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A woman is accused of prostituting her daughters
  • Police allege she sold the virginity of 12 of her girls
  • One daughter went to police after she became pregnant
  • More arrests could be coming, police say

(CNN) -- A mother of 14 in Colombia tried to make ends meet, police say, by pushing her daughters into "hell" and selling their virginity for a couple hundred dollars.

Margarita de Jesus Zapata Moreno, 45, was arrested this week together with a 51-year-old contractor who police believe impregnated one of the young daughters.

She broke down in tears when she stood in front of the cameras after being arrested in Bogota, the Colombian capital. The Bogota Metropolitan Police say Zapata sold the virginity of 12 daughters to much older men seeking to have sex with young virgins.

Authorities also say the suspect would begin selling her daughters to men as soon as the girls turned 12 years old. She charged anywhere between 300,000 and 400,000 Colombian Pesos ($160 to $212) for a virgin.

But Zapata strongly denies the accusation. Colombian authorities often show high-profile suspects to the media shortly after arresting them. When Zapata was standing in front of the cameras Wednesday, one of the reporters shouted a question to her: "Did you prostitute your daughters?" She answered: "No, my darling."

Colombian police say they learned of this alleged case of abuse because one of the alleged victims stepped forward. Authorities say one of the suspect's daughters forced into prostitution gave birth to a baby boy when she was 14. She had refused her mother's orders to have an abortion.

Colonel Carlos Melendez, a Bogota Metropolitan Police spokesman, told CNN affiliate Caracol TV the young girl described to investigators the "hell" in which she lived when she was still a prepubescent girl, about being forced to have sex with much older men in her home and about a life of abuse and neglect.

"She was a minor and she still had the courage to report the abuse and also to refuse to have an abortion. That's when this investigation started, from the threats of her own mother," Melendez said.

The investigation took more than a year to complete because the only witness willing to testify, the 14-year-old girl, now 16, disappeared, apparently because she feared her mother would kill her for going to the police.

After she reappeared, she also told authorities about a man who had sex with her and got her pregnant.

Police arrested a 51-year-old man who investigators say fathered the son of the girl who was 14 years old when the baby was born. The suspect declined to comment at Wednesday's police presentation.

Police are asking the rest of the daughters to provide more information about this case. "Those who are watching or listening to us, we would like to ask them to come to the police so that they give us information about transpired in this case," Melendez said.

Police investigators say Zapata also forced her older daughters to drink alcohol and do drugs. Some ended up working as prostitutes and are missing, police said.

Police say those two arrests are only the beginning. Investigators say they will also build cases against the men who were having sex with these minors.

According to authorities, only two of Margarita de Jesus Zapata Moreno's 14 children were not forced into prostitution. They were the two youngest -- an 11-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl -- and they have been placed in the custody of a Colombian government child protection agency.

Heavy toll for victims of human trafficking

Teen offers virginity for money

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
updated 9:31 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
updated 7:40 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
In a plot straight out of Hollywood, federal agents gain access to a suspected Triad boss' Vegas hotel room by pretending to fix the Internet connection.
updated 12:34 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Was it only black and Latino men who harassed a woman in NYC? The filmmaker has found himself in a race controversy.
updated 10:15 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
The history of human rights often overlooks the struggles of gay people. This must change.
updated 9:15 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
updated 1:28 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
updated 11:12 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT