Police in Brazil dismantled a well-armed gang accused of extorting, torturing and killing poor residents of Rio de Janeiro, state security authorities said Thursday.
A total of "21 people were arrested as part of the operation dubbed `Tentacles,`" officials said in a statement, adding that guns, documents and luxury cars were also seized.
The operation dismantled the group "and left leaderless Rio`s biggest gang," said the head of the anti-organized crime unit, Alexandre Capote.
Capote said the group took in "more than one million reais a month" (around $500,000) in an extortion scheme at massive federal housing projects.
The gang members evicted the residents of the housing projects and then rented or sold the apartments to others. They also forced residents to pay to connect to an illegal internet service and charged extremely high rates for loans.
"The residents were tortured and killed if they didn`t accept the conditions of the gang members," said civil police chief Andre Drummond, according to Brazilian news website G1, without indicating how many people were murdered by the gang.
The gang was active in Campo Grande, in western Rio, for more than two decades, police said.
At first these groups were relatively well-regarded by residents in favelas and poor neighborhoods because they pushed out drug trafficking gangs and took their place. However, their methods were just as violent as the drug traffickers.