Federal and State Police Officers raided a group home, Tuesday, in the Western State of Michoacan had rescued 458 children who were forced to beg for money and suffered sexual abuse while being held against their will in filthy conditions, Mexico’s top prosecutor said.
General Jesus Murillo Karam said police also rescued 138 adults from the Great Family Group home in the city of Zamora.
The group home residents were kept in deplorable conditions, fed rotten food and made to sleep on the floor among rats, ticks and fleas and many of them were never allowed to leave the premises, Murillo Karam said at a news conference attended by top federal investigators and Michoacan Governor, Salvador Jara.
“I’m in utter dismay because we weren’t expecting the conditions we found at the group home,” Jara said.
Police detained the home’s owner, Rosa Del Carmen Verduzco, and eight workers for questioning, Murillo Karam said.
The case has being described as one of Mexico’s worst incidents of alleged child abuse at a children’s institution in many years.
The House of the Big Family has been operating for 40 years and was known locally as Mama Rosa’s Home.
The authorities began to investigate the home after parents complained that they were denied access to their children.
One woman, who grew up at the home herself, gave birth to two children, who were registered in the name of Mrs Verduzco. When the mother left the home, aged 31, she was not allowed to take her children with her, investigators said.
The children in the refuge had to beg for money on the streets, eat unsanitary food and sleep on the floor among vermin, officials said. Some suffered sexual abuse, they added.
Babies born in the refuge were registered as children of Verduzco and their parents were given no say in their upbringing, said Tomas Zeron, director of the attorney general’s criminal investigation unit.
One desperate parent even offered Verduzco 10,000 pesos ($770) to return her young daughters, Zeron said.
Authorities are now treating the children for psychological and sexual abuse as well as seeking out suitable homes for the victims, the government said.
La Gran Familia was founded in 1947 and looks after children abandoned by troubled parents, the refuge says on its Facebook page. It also provides schooling for the children.