DESPITE being accused of “enslaving” and abusing her housekeeper in the US for three decades, Margarida Bonetti will never be arrested.
Holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in Brazil with two guards dogs, FBI fugitive Margarida lives life as a free woman and knows she is untouchable.
Margarida was indicted alongside her ex-husband Renê Bonetti for beating and abusing their housekeeper at their home in the suburbs of Washington DC in the US for 30 years.
Her husband was jailed – but Margarida managed to flee to Brazil and sought refuge in her family’s mansion in Sao Paulo.
What used to be the lavish home of one of the country’s wealthiest families is now crumbling after years of neglect with boarded up windows, peeling walls and no electricity.
But for Margarida, it’s a safe haven – because Brazil doesn’t expatriate its citizens to be tried in other countries.
She has two dogs to guard the house and stop curious strangers and tourists from breaking in – and she even throws buckets and plastic bags filled with excrement out of the window,claimed.
For years, she was only known as the reclusive neighbour who rarely left the house and appeared at windowd with white lotion smeared across her face.
But in 2022, neighbour Chico Felitti launched a podcast titled The Woman In The Abandoned House and her dark past was revealed.
Chico told The Sun how he met Margarida, who introduced herself to him as Mari, and how he discovered the tale of the fugitivedoor.
Even though everyone knows where Margarida lives, she will never be arrested and taken to the US to serve her sentence as Brazil doesn’t expatriate citizens, Chico explained.
However, her ex-husband, Renê, was already a US citizen when the investigation was started and he served six years in prison for his crimes.
Chico told The Sun: “I embarked on this investigation not knowing where it was going to take me and it took me in a turn that I didn’t expect.
“At first, when I didn’t know her life story, she seemed like a super friendly neighbour, who cared about my dogs and knew their names.
“She had an affable exchange there, in the few conversations we had before everything happened.”
Despite being a known FBI fugitive, Margarida seemed “more than comfortable” walking around and being seen, Chico said.
“She seemed to have a sense of belonging and a sense of power that maybe wasn’t what we expected from someone who was hiding,” he said.
Margarida is someone who knows that she has privileges and power, and that’s why she wasn’t shy
“Instead of hiding 24/7, she would go out exercising some kind of power, be it giving orders to city hall employees or demanding service from the local pharmacists.
He added: “She seems to be unafraid of being seen and unafraid of being who she is and exercising the power that she has, because of her family and her wealth.
“Margarida is someone who knows that she has privileges and power, and that’s why she wasn’t shy.
“I think there was a freedom there that came with the certainty of impunity. As long as she is Brazil nothing will happen to her.”
Chico’s podcast caused a frenzy in Brazil, with fans blocking the street to take pictures in front of the Margarida’s home and hoping to get a glimpse of her.
Neighbours were also pretty divided when Margarida’s crimes were revealed, the podcaster said.
“Some reacted to this information, but others had known about it for a long time and had not done anything about it,” he explained.
Since then, rumours went around that Margarida fled the abandoned home and ran away once again.
Chico said she never left the home in the first place, but is living more secluded as he still sees her from time to time.
He told The Sun: “As far as I know from people very close to her, she never left that house. She only became more reclusive during this period.
“And now everything is back to square one.
“She went out on the street normally again, with the same frequency as before, people see her, I even see her sometimes.
“Everything is back to how it was before the podcast.”
Margarida, a trained engineer, and her ex-husband Renê moved to America from Brazil in the late 1970s after getting married.
The newlyweds took their domestic worker with them – a Brazilian woman – who previously worked in Margarida parents’ house and was given as a “gift” to the couple.
For years, the housekeeper, only named as Dosfor anonymity reasons, worked for the couple without getting paid or getting any days off.
US cops said she was a constant victim of aggression and humiliation, The Washington Post reported.
Dos Santos lived in a chilly basement with a large hole in the floor covered by plywood, social worker Annette Kerr said.
Kerr said Dos Santos bathed using a metal tub that she would fill with water she hauled downstairs in a bucket from an upper floor – and slept on a cot with a thin mattress.
Upstairs, a refrigerator was allegedly locked so Dos Santos could not open it.
During Kerr’s investigation, Dos Santos described repeated beatings she had endured from Margarida, including being punched and slapped, having her hair torn out, and fingernails digging into her flesh.
There was a freedom that came with the certainty of impunity
She also mentioned having hot soup thrown in her face.
Dos Santos also lived for years with a non-cancerous tumour so big that doctors compared it to the size of a melon or a basketball.
When she was injured, she was allegedly denied medical attention despite fractures and broken bones.
Dos Santos was only freed in the early 2000s – three decades later.
She managed to flee Margarida’s home during one of the couple’s trips out of town.
She received help from a neighbour, who reported the situation to the police.
After receiving hospital treatment for her tumour, the FBI launched an investigation into her living conditions.
On August 14, 2000, Renê was sentenced to six-and-a-half years for violating immigration laws and ordered to pay $110,000, The Washington Post reports.
At the time, Maryland US Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia said she hoped Renê conviction and sentence would deter anyone abusing foreign workers.
“This kind of slavery in the year 2000 is intolerable,” Battaglia told the court.
Margarida has been living as an FBI fugitive in Brazil ever since and is still wanted by the authorities.