A Pishtaco is an Andean legend about a type of vampire who preys on lonely Indians and desecrates their bodies, often stealing their body fat.
In 2009, Peruvian police encountered a gang calling themselves “the Pishtacos of Huallaga,” and their activities were just as nefarious.
Gang Member Arrested
Police arrested the first member of the gang and found him carrying soft-drink bottles of what appeared to be oil. Upon testing, they discovered it was human fat. The man was carrying approximately seventeen litres of human body fat.
After interrogating the man, police learned that he was part of a gang of kidnappers. The police arrested another two men and a woman and, through further interrogation, they learned what the gang had been doing with their victims.
Luring in Victims
The gang would use job ads to lure overweight and obese people out to lonely roads. The victims were brought to abandoned buildings in the Amazon jungle.
Their throats were slit, their arms and legs were cut off, their head was removed, and the remaining torso was hung on an ‘S-shaped hook upside down.
The body was positioned over a plastic tub and candles were lit all over the room. The candles would keep the body warm, causing the fat to drip from the thorax of the corpse and collect in the tub.
It would take three days to collect all the fat. The body and limbs were buried in the local area.
It had Been Going on for Thirty Years
At the time of the arrest, five gang members were still at large including the 56-year-old leader, Hilario Cudena.
The suspects said that Cudena had been kidnapping people for their body fat for up to thirty years. The gang mainly operated in the Huanaco and Pasco regions of Peru. The suspects in custody admitted to killing five people but Police estimate that the gang may be responsible for up to sixty people missing at the time of the arrest.
When questioned as to the reason why they harvested body fat, the gang members said it was to sell to European cosmetics companies. Apparently, they could get US$15,000 per litre.