“Mica," "Sofi" and "Naty" are some of the many pseudonyms for the so-called ‘viudas negras’ ("black widows") haunting the streets of Buenos Aires. These women — responsible for a string of attacks in Palermo and one in San Isidro — remain anonymous, despite the fact that their faces can be found with a simple Google search.
“Black widows” – women who seduce and incapacitate men before ransacking their homes – have been a part of the criminal world for centuries, but in recent years the practice has become increasingly common due to the prevalence of dating apps.
In Palermo, three “black widow” robberies took place over the span of just a few weeks. One case began on Tinder, a popular dating application, when a 61-year-old victim messaged a young woman and invited her to his apartment on the 16th floor of the Quartier Boulevard tower, Avenida Juan B. Justo 1045.
The victim's son reported the incident at the C14 police station after his father called him the next day, claiming he had been "intoxicated and beaten." The attack occurred on March 22 and the courts intervened the following day.
According to the victim's account, he had arranged a romantic dinner with the assailant at his apartment, shortly after meeting her on Tinder. Videos from the building's security cameras recorded the arrival and departure of this mysterious woman, who curiously wore a black facemask while entering.
“Dad finally woke up after 8am the next morning, 12 hours after having a drink with the woman who drugged him with some psychotropic drug. Stammering, he called the guard and they called me. When I arrived, everything was a mess and he was hurt. He must have fallen and hit himself from dizziness," the victim’s son explained in statements to the Télam state news agency.
Thc woman entered around 8pm and left around 10.30pm with a bag, where she likely had stashed the victim's Samsung cell phone, the keys to his apartment and about 100,000 pesos in cash.
Even though her face was seen clearly in the videos of the building and in the cameras of the neighbouring streets, this "black widow" has still not been identified.
"We are working to find her and in the last few hours we have made a lot of progress," one of the investigators involved in the case told Perfil.
According to sources, the false profile that this woman used on the dating app was deleted and the phone she used to exchange messages with the victim is inactive.
“Once they commit the crime, they discard the device and the chip, to avoid being tracked. They don't leave many clues," one detective explained, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Tinder accounts only require a connection to a phone number, an email, or a Facebook account to be activated. To avoid falling into a scam or trap, specialists recommend analysing the profile of the dating app and, if possible, verifying if the photo is real beforehand.
"The risk is always there," one police source stated, in response to inquiries regarding potential effective methods for reducing the danger of falling victim to such crimes.
“We recently had a case with a 68-year-old man who was victimised by a 24-year-old girl. It all happened very fast and the victim didn’t anticipate it until he woke up to discover that his house had been ransacked,” they continued.
The notorious string of cases in Palermo began at the end of February, when a foreign tourist fell victim to two ‘black widows’ in his apartment at 5800 Guatemala Street.
"They took me to bed, they started laughing and everything went black," the man stated.
“They didn't hurt me. My passport and cards were there but my electronic devices were not and neither was my money, ” he told the Clarín newspaper.
The two girls were recorded by cameras. Sources say they could be responsible for other attacks in the area but so far they have not been identified.
Another recent case, which took place just days after the attack on the Quartier Boulevard tower, also involved a foreign victim. According to police sources, on March 27, a Venezuelan man was taken to a hotel on 2400 Scalabrini Ortiz street, drugged, and robbed of his iPhone and personal computer.
Valentina, a black widow who uses Tinder to seduce victims, first gained the attention of men after posting two or three provocative photos. One of them, 63, fell into her trap and ended up drugged and beaten in his home in San Isidro.
"I study accounting and work in my parents' office,"she told him in an attempt to get to know him via WhatsApp. They met in September of last year and the man ended up hospitalized after the resulting interaction. The woman worked with three accomplices and she was never found.
According to investigators, most cases are not brought to light because victims often feel too ashamed to make the complaint. In some cases, however, complaints are properly investigated and jail time is doled out to perpetrators, such as the case of the so-called ‘black widow’ of Balcarce, who was arrested last year.