When Roberto Masullo first met his new love and next-to-be mother of his two younger children, rather than her abilities as a food vendor in a noisy market, she stood out on her sex-appeal.
All began in 1998, in Valencia, the capital city of the state of Carabobo, a thriving industrial region in central Venezuela. The life of Yocselyn Lugo Martínez, 24, was to have a sea change. In soap operas, the lives of the main characters are interspersed with sorrows and joy. Sometimes, evils cause lot of grief and disgrace, and rather than a happy end, tragedies emerge in a row.
In this love story, Roberto encountered the most unconceivable destiny.
While the Masullos were never captivated by the new love affair of the 36-year-old engineer, they had no choice but to accept Yocselyn quietly and with no reprimands.
At that time, the well-off mechanical engineer capitalized on his professional success to enjoy a fortune at ease in a nation where oil drilling gave a feeling of endless wealth. The bon vivant and playboy flirted with every lady, always observing the implicit rule of indulging the pleasures of the flesh.
His obsession about Yocselyn resulted in divorce from his wife after a nine-year marriage, and two children born. Then, he could build a rather formal relationship with his new love. Roberto was at the pinnacle of his career in the business of real estate development, with the necessary economic muscle in Venezuela for the family’s wellbeing.
Yocselyn left behind a family context of severe constraints and needs to adopt a very comfortable, lavish lifestyle. No more climbing the stairs of eaten-away concrete in Petare, one of the most compact and heterogeneous low-income barrios in Caracas. Now, she would walk to her heart content on Italian marble or shiny wooden flooring.
Little by little, she managed to forge a relationship, not of mutual love with her new partner, but with the possibility of taking her family out of the hole of poverty.
New properties, brand-new vehicles, family outings, a beauty parlor and some other amenities inexistent in an austere past were in the list of Yocselyn’s expenses on behalf of her four sisters, better known in the barrio as “the Lyn of Petare,” after the last three letters in their names: Yusvelyn, Marbelyn, Marilyn and Evelyn.
For her only brother, Sergio, her parents, and some friend, Ms. Masullo also gave whatever they needed, thanks to her love relationship.
The couple never married, opting for living together with ups and downs from 1998 to 2014, the year of their formal split.
Cohabitation was fitful. They never shared a marital, stable home, for theirs was a love-hate relationship. Their performance – he, an active womanizer; she, as cunning as a fox – made them kept a certain distance with fleeting rendezvouses once in a while.
In spite of endless disputes, lack of confidence and a life of their own, two children were born of such a broken relationship – Roberto Martín, in 2004, and Paola Yocselys, in 2007.
The controversial couple eventually enjoyed their children individually. On rare occasions, they had family time in an attempt at relieving a glaringly deteriorated marital relationship for the sake of their children.
One evening, in May 2011, the Masullos were shaken more than ever by the sour news of the kidnapping of engineer Roberto Masullo. Her mother, Rosa Pulido de Masullo, took a good while to digest a telephone call from her disliked daughter in law.
Criminals in possession of her son was the apparent scene of death imprinted in her mind. That same feeling overcame the rest of the family members.
For 11 days the engineer was held hostage. The kidnappers intercepted him while driving his car in Tocuyito, a low-income area in the state of Carabobo, where indolence reigns and criminal gangs have much leeway. No wonder that one of the top 33 dangerous jails in Venezuela is located there, with prison leaders, better known as “prans,” in charge of all the crimes out there.
During such a suffocating captivity for the Masullos, Roberto’s partner played a leading role in making a deal for the final release of the businessman. In the middle of negotiations, discussions and agreements, multiple sums of money were paid to an envoy of the kidnappers.
The event was never reported to the police, at her own request, “not to put the engineer’s life at stake.”
The total amount of US$ 1,000 was paid for Roberto’s freedom in a deal finalized by Yocselyn’s brother, Sergio Rafael Lugo Martínez.
In 2011, organized criminal gangs in Venezuela made kidnapping of businesspeople fashionable, in exchange for exorbitant earnings. It was a high-impact crime, yet with no official numbers of victims in police records. It was only known, off the record, that 100 persons on average were kidnapped nationwide on a monthly basis.
Besides the trauma suffered by the whole family, the couple relationship deteriorated day after day. Roberto and Jocselyn failed to come to terms. Additionally, lack of money wreaked havoc in Jocselyn, now accustomed to spend money by handfuls. With a clear picture of what could happen next, Roberto moved some pieces in order to safeguard his estate. He was certain that the woman could attack him merciless just to keep her material calm.
Yocselyn acted as a domestic partner in her own right. She even happened to appear as stakeholder in one of the two real estate development firms owned by the Venezuelan businessman. One fine day, however, she was taken unawares. The mighty tower erected under her name in the Masullo empire had been knocked down. After that swipe of a claw, she ended up depending on the monthly child support for their two children.
The morning of September 20, 2014, Roberto and Jocselyn agreed on separation and dissolution of their common-law relationship. It was official, each of them should be in their own space. The records of termination of the 16-year relationship are kept on file in a notary public office in the state of Carabobo, including the division of marital property, in accordance with Venezuelan laws and regulations.
“Even, after splitting up, Robert resolved to give her more money than agreed, including child support,” the engineer’s brother, Félix Masullo, recalled.
But Yocselyn’s rapacity became a faithful companion in the ensuing years. She turned into a fierce enemy, keeping a watchful eye over her contender. She tracked every single step of the businessman, and she took good care of making it known to him by way of warning.
The evening of August 27, 2016, during a dinner in a restaurant, the Masullos were taken by surprise. The engineer confessed his family that Yocselyn phoned him consistently and threatened him over and over again, in order to get sufficient money for her and their two children.
In fact, in a voice message recorded during one of such phone calls, an irate Jocselyn, heavily breathing, yelled at him, promising to have him killed for his failure to deliver the required sum of money.
Gripped by fear and distrust, the Masullos adamantly asked the engineer to report on the event for no future regrets. Nevertheless, disregarding the ultimatum from his former partner, he declined his family’s request, preferring instead to honor his obligations as usual.
He never imagined that his partner for so many years was capable of committing such an outrageous act. At the end of the day, Yocselyn was the mother of his children. This, instead of doubt, gave him a minimum dose of calm. Regrettably, extreme confidence resulted in an unexpected event three days after the revealing conversation with his family members.
That same year, on August 30, at 10:30 in the evening, two police officers from different security agencies silently awaited Roberto at 200 meters from his main place of residence in La Trigaleña, Valencia, state of Carabobo.
Roberto was regarded by them as a coveted trophy to be won that day, out of sight of neighbors. Their uniforms made them reliable for pedestrians and potential witnesses.
Nevertheless, they did not count on a fish-eye watchman on duty that night. From his security booth inside a building nearby, the watchman tracked the two police agents until the very last minute, when they drove Roberto away in his own vehicle. That man was a centerpiece to untangle the forced disappearance.
Two days later, the Masullos revived the grief and despair felt back in 2011, when Roberto was first kidnapped. This time, his secretary, Milexis Nathaly Borges, reported on his absence.
On September 2, at 10:00 a.m., in a phone call to one of Roberto’s brothers, the clerk bluntly told him that for two days she had tried unsuccessfully to contact her boss. She made it clear that the no show of his boss in the office and his lack of response to her messages or calls were very suspicious.
The engineer’s mother and brother did not hesitate to travel immediately from Caracas to Valencia in order to find out what was going on. The trip turned out to be a maze, as recalled by the family.
Initially, the Masullos headed for the offices of the Scientific, Criminal and Forensic Investigation Division (CICPC), the major criminal investigation agency in Venezuela.
That morning, the Masullos expressed their despair in a complaint filed in order to commence the investigation. Nevertheless, the presence of Yocselyn in the police headquarters raised doubts in them. What was she doing there? At that time, two years had elapsed since the termination of her marital relationship with Roberto. In other words, she should not be there.
Under Venezuelan laws, the interested parties should wait 72 hours before reporting on a missing person. In this case, 63 hours sufficed for the family members to file a complaint. Their testimonies were inserted in the case file number K-16-0066-3574. Commissioner Pedro Velazco and inspector Werney Omar Gil took the testimonies and were entrusted with the investigation.
Distrust among the Masullos grew as days went by and given the information gap concerning Roberto. For this reason, they sought assistance elsewhere, in local police departments, health care centers and houses of friends and acquaintances. They looked for a clue, in the expectation of finding the engineer and giving him a hug again.
On September 5, uncertainty prevailed over waiting at home for some news. Again, the Masullos visited the CICPC. In the corridors, they learned from the direct comments of some police agents that Yocselyn and one of her sisters, Yusvelyn, were in a relationship with the two officers that met with them three days earlier, at the time of reporting on Roberto’s disappearance.
The officers were aware of the love relationship of their colleagues because the two ladies used to visit the police department openly.
Abashed by the news and very disappointed, they abandoned any hope of the inquiries presumably undertaken by the two police agents who pretended to do their best in order to know the engineer’s whereabouts.
They left, virtually defeated, yet somewhat hopeful, to the National Command against Bribery and Kidnapping of the Bolivarian National Guard (CONAS), a military division responsible for the investigation into missing and kidnapped people in Venezuela. There, they planned to file a new complaint and regain confidence in those officers and the organization represented by them.
Some questions asked to the engineer’s mother, Rosa Melania Pulido de Masullo, are noticeable in the record of complaint filed at the CONAS 41 in the state of Carabobo, on September 5, 2016, at 10:27 a.m.
“… First question: Had your son, Roberto Martín, been kidnapped in the past? Answer: Yes, around five years ago. Second question: Was your son, Roberto Martín, threatened to death or kidnapping by someone some day? Answer: Yes. On August 27 of this current year, my son, Roberto Marín, told me that a van was following him and if something ever happened to him, three suspects should be taken into consideration, namely, Yocselyn Lugo Martínez, my son’s ex-partner; Ms. Carla Estupiñan, and his oldest son, Vicente Rhamaghi Masullo. Third question: Do you suspect of anybody else? Answer: No…”
The sound statement made by the engineer’s mother gave rise to military investigation into the aforesaid persons. As regards the businessman’s son, many a time they had gotten into an argument because of the boy’s drug abuse.
Nonetheless, the case exploded one month later, on October 7, when the investigators apprehended the two police agents that caught the engineer the evening of August 30. They are Eudier José Cañate Cassiani (of the police department of Naguanagua, a municipality close to the city of Valencia), and Walter Alexis Rodríguez Márquez (of the Carabobo state police).
They were identified through an in-depth survey of a security video from a camera located in an adjacent building, and the testimony of the only eyewitness, the watchman on duty was also helpful.
The confession of the two subjects led to the capture, six days later, of the engineer’s secretary and hand-right woman, Milexis Nathaly Borges Farías. The investigators found that she and the two police agents kept in touch, via telephone, before, during and after Roberto Masullo’s forced disappearance.
Once under arrest, an outspoken Milexis Borges conceded that she and her ex-boyfriend, Gustavo González, had planned “to kidnap Roberto Masullo to grab some Toyota 4Runner vans and US$ 35,000 in cash, kept in his apartment,” inside an air conditioning pipe.
Later on, still another revelation made by Borges turned the case around. The entire scheme had been discussed with her former manager and the engineer’s ex-partner.
Little by little, Borges depicted the whole plot to get rid of the businessman and get their hooks on most of his assets. Hence, Yocselyn proved to be the mastermind, thus unveiling her everlasting greed and desire for revenge on her children’s father.
The arrest of the two police agents alerted Yocselyn to the next steps against her. Thus, under false pretenses, the sly woman made the engineer’s oldest son, Vicente Rhamaghi Masullo, sign a power of attorney for the ultimate purpose of taking hold of the engineer’s companies, in addition to vehicles, real estate and personal property. Her intention, apparently, was to make provision for her two children’s future.
After the secretary’s capture, the military officers in charge of the investigation got closer to the root cause. However, Jocselyn moved her pieces to neutralize any action against her.
With the help of private investigators, the Masullos found that Yocselyn had spent large amounts of money to bribe the officials involved in the criminal case against her. In this way, for more than two years and with no inconveniences at all, she performed any kind of financial operations, including buy and sale of real estate, machines and construction equipment of the two companies owned by Roberto.
The criminal case was on stay of execution, in spite of the manifest involvement of the three detainees in the engineer’s disappearance. Pretrial hearings were adjourned 34 times, no matter the efforts made by the Masullos to resume the investigation.
As late as February 2019, a new work team of public prosecutors went back to the investigation and made headway with the proceeding. The Masullos were finally taking a breath of fresh air despite multiple dismissals of judges, public prosecutors and attorneys that just slowed down the process.
On May 24, 2019, Venezuelan authorities issued warrant of arrest C4-0006-2019 against Yocselyn Lugo, on charges of “aiding and abetting of forced disappearance of persons, violation of private data or personal information, and criminal association” to the detriment of her partner for 16 years.
With a warrant of arrest hanging over her, Yocselyn went all or nothing to break free of blame. She constantly moved nationwide along with her two children, just like a criminal caught red-handed, while planning to flee the country and enjoy the money forwarded to third-party accounts in the United States, as appears from the private investigation ordered by the Masullos.
Lastly, in June 2019, Yocselyn and her two children arrived in Colombia by road after crossing the porous border. In Bogotá, they took a flight to Italy, staying there for several weeks, as per the inquest.
She and her children spent about one month in Europe. On July 20, 2019, both minors arrived in Miami and were received by one of Yocselyn’s sisters. The I-94 form of one of the minors certifies the date of arrival in the United States.
In August, Yocselyn reunited with her children in Miami after a flight from Italy. Although there is no record of the exact date, the Masullos were apprised of her arrival in the United States.
All of Jocselyn movements to circumvent Venezuelan justice were successful. Even the Interpol red notice was released on October 10, 2019, two months after her settling down in Miami. She got a point with it, as she lacked any kind of police records that could prevent her from leaving Italy or entering the United States.
Based on the information handled by the Masullos and data corroborated by ITEMP Project, since 2019, Yocselyn Lugo Martínez and her two children have resided at leisure in Coral Springs, Broward county, South Florida. Her current partner, Werney Omar Gil, a former agent of the Venezuelan scientific police, also lives in Florida.
State public records show that Werney Omar Gil incorporated on January 27, 2020 “El Gordo Constructor LLC,” a business of works and repairs.
In 2016, Venezuelan security bodies designated the case of engineer Masullo as forced disappearance.
As a matter of fact, killings in Venezuela accounted for 91.8 in 100,000 inhabitants at that time, according to data collected by Venezuelan Violence Watch (OVV), an NGO engaged in collection and analysis of the impact of insecurity.
With a total number of killings in Venezuela of 28,479 in 2016, as recorded by OVV, the name of Roberto Masullo continues uncounted in the official numbers.
Neither in 2016 nor in the subsequent years, there has been any evidence of his body, even though he was officially declared as dead in 2019, as laid down in the Notice of Absence filed with the Third Trial Court in the state of Carabobo, under number GP02-S-2019-000292. As a result, a murder committed five years ago seems to be stuck in limbo.
The Interpol red notice retrieved by ITEMP Project shows a warrant of arrest issued by Venezuelan authorities against Yocselyn Lugo Martínez, effective since 2019. However, Interpol may not force enforcement authorities of any country to detain a person subject to red notice.
In accordance with Interpol regulations, each member State is free to decide on the full force and effect of a red notice.
Venezuelan Doctor juris and former judge, Jorge Luis Gaviria, has explained that the persons subject to a criminal notice may move freely in foreign countries, provided that they do not commit any crime in their nation of residence.
In his view, Yocselyn was admitted to the United States in advance to the international red notice, a plus for her. Notwithstanding, Gaviria recommends investigation and reporting of Yocselyn’s migration status. “There is no way of deceiving US laws during open migration processes,” he said.
Based on data handled by the Masullos, Yocselyn is seeking asylum in the United States. For Gaviria, “such steps could be rendered ineffective once she is notified of her formal interview and, during that process, her warrant of arrest is found for a crime” committed in Venezuela.
Amidst the strained relationship between the governments of Venezuela and the United States for some years, such complex police cases as Masullo’s could be stuck in limbo and continue unsolved.
The two countries have severed diplomatic links since February 2019, when President Donald Trump’s administration disregarded Nicolás Maduro as the President of Venezuela and recognized instead opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
Venezuelan authorities have complained many a time about the hurdles put by the US Government to the extradition of Venezuelans requested for the crimes of murder or swindle. Unfortunately, the criminals themselves wave the flag of a broken record of lack of independence and corruption in the judiciary to advocate their cases and elude prison.
As regards Yocselyn Lugo Martínez, there is sound incriminating evidence.
In the words of Ramón Silva Torcat, a retired commissioner of the Venezuelan scientific police and former director of Interpol Venezuela, “a reform is necessary to find and capture around the world the parties to a crime.”
To his mind, having exhausted all legal resources, more strenuous actions should be taken for someone’s capture, for instance, releasing a picture and the criminal record of the accused and supply of valuable information to the general public. Note, however, it is up to individual countries to make such reforms.
“The issue of presumed involvement must be taken to another level. If legally demonstrated that a person is responsible for a crime, that person should be unmasked in all sense, either through an order issued by a judge or by any other legal means,” the criminal investigation expert advised.
Light at the end of the tunnel
In all Venezuelan state agencies, the Masullos have filed complaints against the fugitive, Yocselyn Lugo Martínez, and all the parties to the crime, including police agents, public prosecutors, judges and attorneys. In Venezuela, records of misappropriation, swindle, corruption and bribery have been accumulated in a stockpile during the entire investigation process for a total of 34 deferrals in criminal courts.
Three persons have been detained following the engineer’s forced disappearance in October 2016, namely, the police agents who captured the victim, Eudier José Cañate Cassiani and Walter Alexis Rodríguez Márquez, and the engineer’s secretary, Milexis Nathaly Borges Farías.
The police investigation found that, in addition to the telephone contacts between the secretary and the two police agents, she forged a title certificate of one of the vehicles, property of the victim, to the name of her boyfriend, Gustavo Alexander González Uzcátegui. Furthermore, she stole 40,000 Euros, US$ 25,000 and some other personal belongings from Roberto Masullo’s place of residence.
Additional data arising from the investigation pointed to the involvement of the secretary’s boyfriend, an uncle of him, Danilo Antonio Mota González, and another thug who took part in the engineer’s murder, identified as Rainel José Paternino Reales. All the three of them are fugitive of the Venezuelan justice. According to the inquest, they, as well as Jocselyn, know the location where Roberto Masullo was murdered and buried.
“We know in which area of Coral Springs she resides, and the businesses she had with her sister Marbelyn in Jersey City, including a Venezuelan cuisine restaurant, closed nowadays, and where they invested US$ 60,000. We have spotted the school where the kids go and have tracked every movement. Justice will be done for all the damage caused by her,” the victim’s brother, Félix Masullo, affirmed.
For Rosa Melania de Masullo, affliction is her constant companion. The mother entertains hope of finding her son’s remains. She is certain that he is dead, or, at least, she feels it deep inside, in her heart. But she wants to lessen the sour feeling by completing the inverted life process of parents having to bury their children.
She keeps on asking for justice administration from the outset, when she reported on Roberto’s disappearance. She has not taken a break, but she has a longing to turn the page and put an end to a dire chapter that also took her husband’s life.
On November 26, 2016, three months after his son’s disappearance, Roberto Masullo could not stand the news and died of a fulminant heart attack. Owing to his sensitive health condition, his relatives tried to hide the tragedy from him, but the lie could not linger long, having a fatal outcome.
Venezuelan authorities resumed the investigation into the case some months ago. The search of the businessman’s body, presumably buried in a vacant lot of a village to the north of Valencia, has been scheduled for the second quarter of 2021.