MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexican authorities announced Tuesday the arrest of 13 federal police officers who allegedly belonged to a kidnap and murder gang that operated in the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco.
The bust was one of the largest single take-downs of corrupt cops in recent years in Mexico, where the government has been struggling with rising levels of kidnapping and extortion, crimes many people don't report because they don't trust police.
Federal security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said the 13 officers and five civilian accomplices "are linked to at least seven homicides and four kidnappings, in which two of the victims were killed in a cowardly way."
Acting on a tip, prosecutors began investigating the gang, and the probe led them to three clandestine burial sites on a hill in Acapulco, where three bodies were found. Other members of the gang were arrested with guns and marijuana.
The suspect federal police officers, almost all of them low-ranking and young officers, were then detained by their own colleagues in the federal police, and together with their five accomplices were turned over to prosecutors to face charges of homicide, kidnapping, drug and weapons possession. They face possible prison sentences of as much as 70 years if convicted.
Sanchez said the leader of the gang was apparently a civilian. He would not say whether the police officers arrested late last week wore their uniforms while committing the alleged crimes.
The government has been on a push to encourage citizens to report kidnapping and extortion, but the revelation that there are corrupt officers on the force probably won't help that effort.
"The government will not tolerate, under any circumstances, acts of corruption by public servants," Sanchez said.
He said a total of 81 federal police officers have been detained and charged with corruption in the last 10 months. There are a total of about 36,000 officers on the force nationwide.
The country has seen an upsurge in kidnappings and extortion. Figures released earlier this month by the National Statistics Institute said that there were 105,682 kidnappings in Mexico in 2012 and that 92 percent of all crimes in Mexico are not reported to police.