In an imposing prison situated in barren desert, 18 miles north of Lima, Peru, Alexander Delgado was facing 14 long years behind bars. But when the 28-year-old’s twin brother Giancarlo planned a visit in 2017, fiendish inspiration struck. Somehow, Alexander pulled off the unthinkable, escaping justice in the most audacious way possible. But what really happened inside the infamous Piedras Gordas maximum-security jail?
As identical twin brothers, Alexander Jheferson and Giancarlo Stuard Delgado must have shared a lot while they were growing up in Lima. But in 2015 Alexander went to a place where his dead-ringer sibling was not able to accompany him. Found guilty of robbery and sexually assaulting a minor, Alexander was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
And it was not just any prison. In fact, Alexander was sent to Piedras Gordas, one of the most high-security jails in Peru. Located near the desolate Pacific coast north of Lima, the country’s capital, the facility has housed some of the region’s most notorious prisoners – including Joran van der Sloot, the Dutch national who murdered Peruvian Stephany Flores Ramirez in 2010 and is thought to have killed missing American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005.
Although not generally regarded as one of Peru’s worst prisons in terms of conditions, Piedras Gordas is still thought to be a hotbed of corruption and disease. And as the months and years of his sentence ticked by, Alexander must have often thought of home and family. But no-one could have guessed the twisted plan that he was about to put into action to get home and see that family. Well, all of his kin apart from one.
Indeed, one particular family member was to play a major part in the escape plan. By the time that January 10, 2017, rolled around, Alexander had served just two years of his long sentence. Perhaps hoping to raise his brother’s spirits, Giancarlo arranged a visit from his home in the San Martín de Porres district of Lima to Piedras Gordas. Apparently, the twin planned to take the inmate letters and gifts of food from their relatives.
At first, the brothers were reunited in one of the prison’s public spaces. But after this, the Delgados retreated to the privacy of Alexander’s cell – and that’s where things appeared to go right for one twin and horribly wrong for the other. Allegedly, the prisoner slipped a sedative into a soft drink and gave it to Giancarlo, causing the latter to fall into a drugged stupor.
While Giancarlo was unconscious, Alexander swapped clothes with his incapacitated twin. Then the felon simply strolled out of the high-security facility using Giancarlo’s I.D. card. All prison visitors to Piedras Gordas were supposed to bear a security stamp on their arm. Nevertheless, the escapee was able to pass through as many as six prison checkpoints on his way out of the gates without being stopped.
In fact, for several hours, no-one inside Piedras Gordas was aware of the sex criminal having absconded or there being anything amiss. This was to change when Giancarlo came to on Alexander’s cell floor and saw a ring of prison guards staring down at him. Apparently disoriented from the effects of the drug, he groggily attempted to explain that he was not inmate Alexander, and that his twin had actually escaped.
However, understandably, the story was so bizarre that the guards did not believe it at first. Especially as the seemingly tall tale was coming from the mouth of a man who, to their eyes, was their prisoner. Poor Giancarlo was in a fix – was he destined to remain behind bars because of his brother’s guilt? Luckily for him, officials eventually agreed to test Giancarlo’s fingerprints and found that his unlikely story was true. But he was still in trouble; had the young man really been unwittingly drugged by his twin?
Apparently, the prison authorities were suspicious, believing that Alexander and Giancarlo must have orchestrated the escape together. In fact, according to Carlos Vasquez, director of Peru’s National Penitentiary Institute, Giancarlo was fully aware of the plan. “That alibi, only he believes it,” a skeptical Vasquez told U.S. newspaper The Washington Post in February 2018.
Meanwhile – never mind the method used – many observers expressed amazement that a prisoner had managed to escape from Piedras Gordas at all. Apparently, it was the first time that such a feat had been pulled off in 12 years. Nevertheless, Giancarlo wanted no part in such a success story. The twin maintained that he had been an innocent victim in his brother’s scheme.
In a January 2017 interview for Peruvian television, Giancarlo confessed his mixed feelings towards his scheming sibling. “Yes, I do love him,” Giancarlo admitted. But when asked whether or not he forgave his brother, he retorted, “I need to speak with him about that.” And even though the authorities doubted Giancarlo’s version of events, a lack of evidence meant they were forced to set him free.
At Piedras Gordas, the repercussions of Alexander’s breakout were far-reaching. Reportedly, a number of staff members were fired on grounds of negligence, including the director of the prison, Joel Quezada. Meanwhile, the hunt for the escaped prisoner began. And for more than a year, the wily Alexander managed to evade capture.
Keen to save face and get the guilty party back behind bars, officials put up a reward of 20,000 Peruvian soles – more than $6,000 – in return for information about Alexander’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, an extensive surveillance effort was mounted, monitoring members of the twins’ family for any hint of the man on the lam.
However, search efforts were hindered by one inescapable fact – Giancarlo was also a free man. The cops did not want to make the same mistake as their prison warder counterparts. Indeed, a police spokesman was quoted in U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph in February, 2018, saying, “We had to be sure that we had got the escaped prisoner and not his brother, otherwise there would have been a complaint against us.”
Instead, investigators took their time, staking out the family until they could be sure there was no identity crisis. And after months of observation, they were finally able to focus their efforts on a building in Callao, a seaport some nine miles west of central Lima. Apparently, relatives of Alexander had been spotted visiting and leaving the property on a number of different occasions.
Then, in the early morning of February 12, 2018, the Peruvian authorities finally made their move and got their man. And later that day the country’s Ministry of the Interior announced their success on Twitter. In the official tweet, a snapshot showed a despondent Alexander wearing a vest emblazoned with the text “Police kidnapping arrested.”
As the fugitive stepped out of the police vehicle in Lima, a crowd of reporters wanted Alexander’s side of the story. Apparently, the prisoner claimed that his initial incarceration had devastated his mother, and he had escaped in order to console her. “I did it out of desperation,” he is reported to have said.
But there is bad news for Alexander – and his mom. He is set to complete his sentence in an even more remote and far less appealing location. According to Vazquez, the escapee will now be incarcerated in the notorious Challapalca prison. This is literally a high-security jail, almost 16,000 feet up in the dizzying peaks of the Andes.
Apparently, the isolated Challapalca is usually reserved for the country’s most challenging prisoners. But will its inaccessible location and infamously awful conditions be enough to keep Alexander in check? The answer to this remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure. Any visits from Giancarlo will come under double scrutiny from now on.