Chile police find kilos of cocaine and £45,000 in cash at grandmothers' house
They did not fit the typical drug dealer profile: two elderly grandmothers, one of them bedridden, living beside a police academy on a leafy suburban street.
But according to Chilean authorities, Maria Valdebenito, 80, and Giselle Gilbert, 72, ran a profitable drugs business from their home in Providencia, a suburb in the capital Santiago.
They have been charged with drug trafficking after a night police raid on their house over the weekend netted almost 2kg of cocaine, cocaine paste and £45,000 in cash.
Because of their advanced age and Valdebenito's infirmity they have been placed under house arrest pending a prosecutors' request to detain them at a penitentiary hospital.
They arranged deals mostly by telephone and Gilbert, the more agile of the pair, would hand over packages at designated spots near their home, Patricio Caroca, a prosecutor, told the newspaper El Mercurio. "The clients we have been able to trace were professionals who bought the drugs for personal consumption."
Suspicious neighbours tipped off police several times in recent years, prompting a six-month investigation which led to the raid. "You would always see fancy cars and an elderly lady hanging around them," an unnamed neighbour told local media.
Anti-narcotic investigators, who are more accustomed to tracking youth gangs, were criticised for not acting sooner on a case which evoked Arsenic and Old Lace, the 1944 Frank Capra film about two elderly women criminals.
The Chilean pair, descendants of German immigrants, were lifelong friends who used to run textile businesses. Another factor in common was that each had a criminal record.
Gilbert, who was also named as Gulbert, notched up eight detention orders for bank fraud and drink-driving. Valdebenito was convicted of drug trafficking in 1998.
Her son, Daniel Ried, 46, was sentenced to 20 years in jail in the 1990s for drug offences. An associate of Nicolas Escobar, scion of one of Colombia's most notorious cocaine dynasties, Ried was caught trying to smuggle furniture stashed with cocaine to Spain.
By Rory Carroll
Source - http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/31/chile-police-charge-elderly-women-drugs
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