The suspect “is a serial killer of women, and there are at least seven cases of femicide in which this person could be involved,” said Ricardo Mejia, assistant secretary of public security.
Mejia said the most recent case involved the murder of a 31-year-old woman in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz after she went for a job interview last month.
“Viridiana Moreno left her home in (the town of) Cardel, Veracruz, and went to the Bienvenido hotel to attend a so-called job interview she got with someone on Facebook,” said Mejía. “Then she disappeared.”
Her name was revealed by relatives who protested after her disappearance. Her unrecognizable body was found days later and was identified by an ID card found near the crime scene and DNA testing.
Veracruz prosecutors said Moreno was lured by a Facebook messenger message under an account registered with “Mary Madison” who offered a $90-a-week job as a receptionist.
“Duties include answering phones and making appointments,” according to a copy of the message distributed by prosecutors.
Prosecutors in the central state of Morelos said on Thursday that the same suspect killed a 22-year-old student who was looking for work in April. Local activists said the student was enticed to meet the suspect in a cafeteria in late March by a Facebook listing for a job or items for sale.
He then took her to a barbershop, where she was apparently murdered.
Three days later, prosecutors said, her body was found: “The victim had been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled.”
Protests continued after her disappearance. A chilling aspect was that both women disappeared after making contact with the suspect in public places with many people around and willingly accompany him, apparently convinced by the vacancies.
It was not clear whether the victims’ bodies had been dismembered, but prosecutors in both states said they found their remains in “several places” or in different plastic bags.
Morelos’s prosecutors said the man had a long string of aliases and was wanted in 2012 for rape. They listed Juan Carlos Gasperin and the Greek Román Villalobos as the two most common aliases.
The man was arrested along with a female companion in the northern state of Queretaro. It was not clear whether he had a lawyer.
Authorities said he may also have been involved in cases in Queretaro and Puebla states.
Activists posted evidence that a suspect using the same tactics may have been operating for a decade.
A 2013 article in the Veracruz newspaper El Buen Tono said Greek Román Villalobos, then 28, was arrested in 2012 “after he contacted young women to offer them a job and when they showed up for the interview, he locked them in an office and raped them.”
The article listed some of the same aliases released by prosecutors on Thursday.
Veracruz’s prosecutors declined to comment Thursday on what the outcome of that 2012 case had been, or why he had been released.
“It’s a sign of brutal impunity,” said Maria de la Luz Estrada of the National Feminicide Observatory activist group.
Estrada worked on the case of a suspect who raped a dozen women near a Mexico City subway station; authorities were slow to file charges against the man, and women found that the legal process against them was piling up. The rapist was eventually arrested, but became increasingly violent before being caught.
“What we found was that he got more aggressive every time” with the rapes, she said.
The vast majority of murder and rape cases in Mexico remain unsolved.
The desperation of women needing work in small, provincial Mexican cities and Mexico’s largely under-the-table economy provides a fertile field for fake job opportunities.
On Thursday, authorities said they rescued two girls, ages 13 and 14, who had been lured away from home with job offers in the western state of Jalisco. They were found at a bus station in Mexico City with a suspected kidnapper.
Drug cartels in Mexico are also known to provide employment on social media sites.