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Police in Peru say gang members killed people to drain their fat for cosmetics

November 19, 2009 |  7:11 pm

Gang members in Peru face charges of killing people and draining their fat for use in cosmetics, police said today.

Police showed journalists two bottles of fat that authorities said were recovered from two suspects and a photograph of a rotting head believed to be of a male victim. The suspects allegedly told police the fat was worth $60,000 per gallon.

Police Col. Jorge Mejia said three suspects who confessed to five killings told authorities the fat was sold in Lima, the capital. One suspect said the gang severed body parts and then suspended the torsos, collecting  fat in tubs placed underneath, Mejia said.

Police named the group the “Pishtacos” after a Peruvian myth dating to pre-Columbian times of men who killed to extract human fat, quartering their victims with machetes, the Associated Press reported. The gang, which has several suspected members who are not yet in custody, allegedly operated in the Huanuco province, police said.

Several medical experts said fat has cosmetic uses, but the idea of an international black market for human fat was hard to believe.

 “I can’t see why there would be a black market for fat,” said Dr. Adam Katz, a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Virginia medical school, according to AP. “It doesn’t make any sense at all because in most countries we can get fat so readily and in such amounts from people who are willing and ready to donate that I don’t see why there would ever be a black market for fat, of all tissues.”

-- Efrain Hernandez Jr.