CARACAS Venezuelan police have arrested a man and woman accused of impersonating plastic surgeons and providing women with silicon breast and buttock implants from an illegal clinic in an apartment.
Cosmetic surgery, especially breast enlargement, is widespread in image-conscious Venezuela, which is known for beauty queens who have won many international pageant titles.
Reinaldo Henriquez was charged with aggravated fraud while sidekick Hersi Rodriguez was accused of aiding and abetting him by recruiting clients and taking them to their surgery in the western city of Maracay, the Attorney General's office said.
Henriquez, 26, and Rodriguez, 34, are beauticians who belonged to a gang called "The Silicons" and attracted customers with rock-bottom prices, local media reported.
Police were tipped off by a former client and caught the suspects on April 12 in a raid of the apartment, which contained surgical equipment and a surgical table, authorities said.
A deep recession has not diminished Venezuelans' appetite for cosmetic surgery, with many people taking out loans for operations to lift their spirits, doctors say.
(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Will Dunham)