[NOTE: To read a follow up story please click on "Was Manhunt.net racially insensitive?"] It's been a while since I've been able to keep a more consistent blog post schedule and a few stories out there that I would have loved to write about. This is one of them.
It all started with a September 2nd article ("Follows clues, lies and traps him") which ran in Mexico's La Reforma (it's only available to subscribers there but was also published on the same day at Entre Todos with the slightly different title "Follows clues on internet and captures thief").
The article itself is fascinating: 31 year old Fernando Gabriel Vega (above) who was born in Argentina but has lived in Mexico City for the past five years says that he became livid when he heard what had happened to his close friend Zenaido Torres.
On July 23rd Torres was browsing through the personal profiles at the popular online hook-up site gay.com when he struck up a conversation with someone with the nickname of 'lalotlane' and ended inviting him to come over to his apartment. When the man arrived, he immediately said he'd brought drinks and offered him a bottle: "I drank and I stopped right there," says Torres, "I didn't know [anything] else."
Once his victim had passed out, Agustín Javier Vidal Dionicio (alias 'lalotlane') proceeded to steal a computer, a digital camera, two cellular phones and four credit cards, one of which he used the next day, charging up to U$4,500.
The card belonged to Torres' employer and when he failed to show up to work the next day and the card company reported irregular charges on the credit card, his boss got suspicious and sent a messenger to his home. Torres was found in a stupor speaking nonsense and was taken to a hospital.
Torres' employer alerted Vega who went to see him at the hospital. "I felt so much anguish seeing him in that way that the next day I began to monitor the chat, waiting for the dude to get connected," said Vega, "My friend had acted in good faith, and that abuse bothered me."
Exactly a week after his friend was drugged and robbed, Vega finally saw 'lalotlane' pop up online which also made him realize that there were no images of his face in his profile. Jokingly, Vega says that he realized at that exact moment that it was time "to put my beauty at the service of justice."
First, he sent several of his photos and asked if he could get Dionicio's in return. Dionicio resisted and warned Vega that he was not what others considered to be a good-looking man. Vega then used his trump card: Using details from his friend's description of the assailant, he came up with a description of his alleged 'fantasy man' which, of course, fit Dionicio's look to a T.
Dionicio finally agreed to show himself on a computer camera and Vega took the opportunity to take several digital pictures of 'lalotlane' (including the one at right). Dionicio also agreed to come over that night.
With only 40 minutes to decide what to do, Vega first sent the images he had captured to Torres for confirmation and then decided that Torres would go look for the police while Dionicio arrived.
Dionicio arrived around 10:30 at night carrying a bag with four blue-tinted "Fixion Ice Blue" alcoholic beverage bottles and immediately offered one to Vega. Vega, who had just opened a Diet Coke before his arrival, told Dionicio that he'd rather finish his drink first.
The police took a bit longer to arrive: "I had to stretch it out, and began to inquire about the dude's life and work," says Vega, "'What do you do, how many brothers do you have, your mom, your dad, the cat, the dog...' What did it matter to me? But I had to make time. He never suspected anything, and it's because I acted enchanted by his presence; I could have won an Oscar! But my adrenaline was so 1,000 that, I swear, I was certain that I could have ripped his head off with a punch, and I wanted to. What he did to my friend was very ugly."
In the meantime Torres finally found a policeman riding a motorcycle and requested assistance. The cop called for more units and by the time Torres arrived at Vega's apartment twenty armed officers (twenty!?) were entering Vegas' building in silence.
Vega had left his apartment door unlocked and the officers were able to capture Dionicio without any struggle. They found a bottle of Rivotril in his possession (a muscle-relaxant which can increase in potency if mixed with alcohol and can cause impaired motor functions, mental confusion, drowziness and even coma if misused).
Since July, Dionicio has been charged with 'illicit qualifying robbery' which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Vega and Torres have posted fliers with Dionicio's photo all over Torres' neighborhood seeking other possible victims who might want to bring charges. But they say that few are willing to be open about hooking up with other men online and/or fear that Dionicio might seek revenge if and after he serves a jail term.
Asked if he is afraid that Dionicio might seek revenge, Vega says "I do not have any fear, absolutely none, and if some day he comes by he knows he will lose, because I won't hold back and I will beat him up."
He also says that the police still check on them from time to time. "It's that they consider me part of their team because I acted like a detective," he half-joked, "'It's as if you worked for us,' they said."
A police officer, speaking anonymously confirms that this is exactly what the police department thinks of Vega.
In the meantime, Vega, who says he felt attracted to Superman as a kid and held a short-lived desire to own Wonder Woman's cape, says he is charmed to have earned a slightly un-PC new nickname from his friends: "Putocop" (loosely translated as "Fagcop").
He laughs it off but turns serious and says that it bothers him that if it wasn't for him sitting at his computer tracking down Dionicio for a week he would not have been caught. It's something, he says, that the police should have done after his friend Torres reported he had been drugged and robbed.