A dad has been accused of stealing thousands of pounds from his seriously ill baby son’s bank account, to spend it on prostitutes, booze and drugs while living a life of luxury on the run, police in Brazil claim.
Mateus Alves is accused to blowing more than £130,000 from a pot of £216,000 which was raised by family and friends to buy expensive medication to prolong his two-year-old son João Miguel’s life.
The little boy has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (AME), a rare degenerative neuromuscular disease, and the money was fundraised to buy three doses of Spinraza (also known as Nusinersen), the first approved drug to treat the disorder. Each dose costs up to £81,000 and the toddler needs six rounds of the injection, which is administered near the spinal cord. The drug is not available on the nation’s national health service.
Police caught up with the 37-year-old at a five star beachfront hotel in Salvador, north east Brazil, and arrested him on July 22 where he had allegedly been hiding out for over a month during his spending spree.
Police chief Daniel Gomes said:
At the time of his arrest, Mateus claimed he had spent the money bingeing on women, drinks and drugs. He also alleged that he was being blackmailed by drug dealers for the rest of the money. But we have no evidence so far to support this claim.
Investigators also revealed their inquiry led them to believe Alves was planning to open a brothel in the city with a female business partner. He had allegedly parted with £10,800 to recruit women for the illicit venture.
During questioning, Mateus told us that he had already invested 50,000 reais in a brothel in Salvador to become a joint owner.
His role would be to bring women from Belo Horizonte (south east Brazil) to work in Salvador.
According to our information, he planned to bring at least four women and put them up in rented apartments as call girls. In return, they would have to pass some of the money raised from their services to him.
When cops raided the hotel’s penthouse suite, they reportedly found a collection of expensive goods, including watches, jewellery, perfume and designer clothes, along with drugs and £650 in cash.
Investigators released selfies allegedly filmed by the accused in which he boasted about his lavish lifestyle, showed off a packet of ‘pure full-strength’ weed and gushed over his plush hotel room.
Relaxing in a roof top swimming pool the suspect bragged in another video:
I come from a poor background, but now I don’t have anything to do with that.
The huge sums raised for his baby son during a year of crowdfunding campaigns included online appeals, auctions, donations and a variety of activities.
Alves and his wife, Karine, who also have a 10-year-old son, put the money into four savings accounts with each responsible for two of them.
The devastated housewife said she would never have believed her husband, who always appeared dedicated and loving towards their sick son, could be capable of putting his son’s life at risk by allegedly robbing the funds and betraying the trust of scores of supporters.
In a statement she said:
As a mother, my conduct has always been guided by good faith and for the sole purpose of trying to save the life of my son João Miguel.
She said Alves started acting suspiciously in May after he claimed he needed to attend safety training courses for a new job as a security guard. He travelled to Belo Horizonte, 62 miles away from their home town of Conselheiro Lafaiete and soon became elusive and difficult to reach after a few weeks of being away.
By June, Karine, suspected her husband had been withdrawing cash from the two accounts in her name after transactions were made without her authorisation.
Detectives believe Alves got hold of his wife’s password and made online transfers to the accounts in his name.
Karine alerted police and got a judicial order from the Childhood and Youth Court blocking access to them.
But it was too late as huge sums of money had already been taken from the account.
At the beginning of July, Alves failed to return home to the tight-knit community who had been so supportive of his family.
Many of the town’s residents, who were moved by the child’s plight and helped to raise the cash, are shocked and angered by the suspects’ actions. Série A goalkeeper, Victor Bagy, who plays for Atletico Mineiro donated his shirt for an auction and even local police officers got involved.
Resident Carlos Capistrano said:
The police put on a ‘race for life’ here and there were over 500 participants running to help Joao’s cause. Everyone today feels betrayed by Mateus’s conduct.
Before fleeing to Salvador, cops believe Alves spent nine days bedding and partying with prostitutes while under the pretence of attending safety courses in May.
We found indications he withdrew more than 7,000 reais (£1.500) from the accounts during this period. We suspect this was used to stay in one of the most luxurious suites in a motel in Belo Horizonte.
The apartment has a wine cellar with imported wines, a minibar, gourmet dining area, jukebox and cable TV with X-rated movies. The bedroom even has a pole dancing bar, whirlpool and special ambient lighting.
Túlio de Melo Silva, lawyer for the accused, said his client has a history of drug abuse and depression and has expressed regret for what he is accused of doing. But he was also a victim of extortion.
While Mateus was in Belo Horizonte for the safety training, a drug trafficker found out about the campaign for his son and started threatening his life if he didn’t hand over some of the money.
Investigators said this claim still needs to be substantiated and they are determined to recover the value of the missing funds to continue the boy’s treatment.
The dad-of-two has been charged with acting fraudulently, scamming and deceiving people into donating money for his son’s campaign and using it for another purpose. Both charges carry a penalty of up to five years.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.