Skip to main content

Colombian accused of selling virginity of 12 daughters

By Mariano Castillo and Rafael Romo, CNN
October 28, 2013 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
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
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 0214 GMT (1014 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1239 GMT (2039 HKT)
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