Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, alias “Nem” led the Amigos dos Amigos gang in Rocinha, a favela of some 150,000 residents in the south of Rio de Janeiro. He was captured in November 2011 while attempting to flee the neighborhood before a planned security forces invasion.
Nem was born in Rocinha to parents who had migrated from northeast Brazil to escape poverty, and rose to head the gang’s operations in the favela before the age of 30. He got his start working as a security guard for Amigos dos Amigos boss Erismar Rodrigues Moreira, alias “Bem-Ti-Vi,” who had taken control of the favela in 2004, after splitting from the rival Red Command (Comando Vermelho). After the boss died in a shootout with police in 2005, Nem killed the group’s new leader Orlando Jose Rodrigues, alias “Soul,” within days, and seized power for himself.
Nem is said to have lived an extravagant lifestyle, funded by a turnover which he claimed came to R$100 million ($60 million) a year from sales of cocaine and marijuana in Rocinha and neighboring Vidigal favela, backed by his personal army of 200 gunmen.
DOB: May 22, 1976
Group: Amigos dos Amigos
Criminal Activities: Drug dealing, money laundering
Status: Captured November 2011
Area of Operation: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
He functioned as an old-style mafia boss, wielding total power within Rocinha, and was able to order a curfew on residents before the favela was occupied by security forces as part of the police pacification program (UPP). An interview he gave to a reporter shortly before his arrest painted a picture of a man who exerted relatively benign social control in his community, adjudicating disputes between residents, who call him “the president.” He claimed that there was hardly any theft within the favela, that he did not allow the sale of crack cocaine there, and expressed his support for the UPP program.
Nem attempted to fake his own death in January 2010 in order to retire and evade capture. He had a death certificate made up, and a fake identity prepared, but the scheme was discovered.
In August that year, Nem made national headlines when he and a group of his men invaded the Intercontinental Hotel in São Conrado, taking dozens of people hostage while fleeing from a police ambush.
Nem was captured by police in November 2011 while trying to flee Rocinha, shortly before a publicly announced invasion by the security forces as part of the UPP program. He was hidden in the boot of a car which was stopped at a police checkpoint. His associates reportedly offered police some R$1 million, or $600,000, to let them go, which the officers turned down.
Nem and his Amigos dos Amigos band made their money primarily from local sales of cocaine and marijuana.
Nem was born in Rio de Janeiro, and continued to base himself in the city throughout his time as a gang boss, hiding out in luxury houses in Rocinha favela.
Allies and Enemies
Amigos dos Amigos’ biggest enemies are Rio’s other two biggest drug gangs, the Red Command and the Terceiro Comando Puro (Pure Third Command – TCP).
Nem was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2013. However, being behind bars often serves as little barrier to Brazil’s crime bosses in continuing their careers.