POLICE have arrested three ringleaders of a gang preying on vulnerable immigrants living in a Murcia centre run by a charitable foundation.
It is alleged the trio were responsible for more than 30 vicious robberies at the centre in Beniajan using violence, coercion and threats.
The Guardia Civil launched Operation ACOEX after an aid worker made a complaint and it led to the arrest of the trio, aged between 21 and 32, of Moroccan and Tunisian nationalities.
The worker maintained that a gang was forcing its way into the facility to steal belongings and food from immigrants, threatening them so the crimes were not reported.
The alleged thieves, all of Maghreb origin, were former users of the foundation but were thrown out because of their “aggressive and degrading treatment of others,” both residents and workers.
Victims alerted workers of their plight, reporting they had faced it every weekend for several months at the residence of the foundation as the gang continually returned, stealing any property of value; allegedly as “revenge” for being expelled.
The gangsters broke into the locked rooms of residents, sometimes using the roof space and breaking false ceilings to get entry.
They would also smash up furniture. It was said when workers decided to bring in the police, the ringleaders intensified their campaign of fear damaging the car of a female worker and assaulting residents.
After taking statements, the Guardia Civil attempted to track down the ringleaders.
The search made more difficult because several gang members were illegally in Spain and had no fixed addresses.
However, they identified the hierarchy of the group. It was alleged the ringleaders also threatened the lower ranks of the gang.
The suspects, after learning that they had been denounced, left the locality but the police launched a 24-hour surveillance of the centre and arrested two suspects when they returned, later tracing a lieutenant.
The suspects have been charged with robbery with force, robbery with violence, criminal damage and threatening behaviour.