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
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1148 GMT (1948 HKT)
The possibility of pockets of air remaining within the hull of the sunken South Korean ferry offers hope to rescuers -- and relatives -- say experts.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Despite hundreds still missing after the sinking of a South Korean ferry, reports of text messages keep hope alive that there may be survivors yet.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
It's hard not to be nervous, standing outside the Ebola isolation wards.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2131 GMT (0531 HKT)
Russia's propaganda worse now than at height of Cold War, says Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at AEI.
Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
A lack of progress in the search for MH370 is angering the families of victims.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 2116 GMT (0516 HKT)
Officials are launching their next option: an underwater vehicle to scan the ocean floor.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
The searches for the Titanic and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 share common techniques.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
This year's Pyongyang marathon was open to foreign amateurs.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis".
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2126 GMT (0526 HKT)
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT