How an internationally famous stage magician was falsely accused of being a “cultist human trafficker” and ended up in jail.
by Susan J. Palmer
Article 2 of 5. Read article 1.
Carlos Barragán is a professional stage magician. His father and father’s father were famous magicians in Argentina, who taught him his first magic illusion at age 3. Carlos achieved international fame by inventing a new, poetic style of stage magic and won many awards, notably, the World Magic Championship in Great Illusions FISM in 1997. For over two decades, Barragán has toured Latin America, Mexico, Las Vegas, Europe, Russia, and China, performing his theatrical magic shows at festivals, corporate events, and selected private parties.
MagicPedia sums up Carlos Barragán’s unique career as follows: “His inventive, philosophical, and emotional thriller-show production, combine illusion and theater, comedy and mystery in a sensual show… touching the emotions of the audience with his new emotional-philosophical magic concept. Carlos Barragán has been enchanting audiences around the world in theaters and on TV; he prepared a special show for Prince William and Máxima at the Royal Dutch Wedding in 2002.”
In between his world tours, Carlos Barragán would drop into the Buenos Aires Yoga School and attend its philosophy classes. Carlos felt at home in this warm community of intellectuals and creative artists who welcomed Jews, Muslims, and homosexuals to their gatherings. Carlos’ parents and sisters never joined BAYS, but he maintained a close relationship with them. He worked closely with the fellow artists he met at BAYS to create innovative theatrical shows with music and comedy. One of them, a gifted young actress, became his regular stage assistant and traveled with him to Germany in 1997 to perform and receive the FISM prize.
On the fateful evening of 12 August 2022, Carlos Barragán was attending a study session at BAYS’ café on the ground floor of the Estado de Israel Avenue building when the police raided the building and other locations linked to BAYS. Handcuffed and arrested at gun point, along with 18 other BAYS members, Carlos was accused of human trafficking through the operation of a prostitution ring.
An alternative story of the 2022 raid in a video prepared by BAYS members (not involved in the investigation), ex-members, and relatives: https://www.veoh.com/watch/v142293140gTgZqHbh.
While incarcerated in prison, Carlos Barragán learned that his large, elegant house had also been raided that night. His friends told him they found the front door smashed in. The police had invaded his Museum of Magic and seized two large boxes with an historic collection of magic props and paraphernalia. Carlos Barragán explained: “Pablo Salum had told PROTEX that I had in my house—in my ‘bunker’ (as Salum calls it)—all the blackmail material for the extortion of rich men who were offered our women. He said videos of sex acts were taken so that we could extort money from them. So, the police smashed their way into my house and stole over 4,000 VHS, expecting to find blackmail material, but of course all they found were my historic collection of magic shows, and the VHS series on our philosophy classes in BAYS.”
Carlos Barragán was released from prison on 4 November 2022, when the charges against him were suddenly dropped. To this day he has no idea why—or indeed, how he came to be arrested in the first place.
He returned home to find the police had ransacked his study and he found that his meticulously-crafted inventions which he used to make to sell to other magicians, had been torn apart and trodden underfoot. Windows had been broken and he found animal droppings on the floor. But for Carlos, the most devastating realization was that the police had discovered his secret hiding place where he kept his passport and his father’s gold and silver medals for his service to the community. There they had also found—and stolen—a large cache of money his mother had given him for safekeeping shortly after the death of his father on the 9th of June of 2022.
His mother, Señora Barragán, was fearful of burglars, for she now lived alone. Like many Argentinians, she did not trust the banks, ever since the famous “corralito” in 2001, when all the banks froze their clients’ money—both pesos and dollars—only to return it several months later exclusively in pesos, in installments and devaluated. Many people lost huge amounts of money and assets, and a wave of emigration to other countries followed. After his mother’s jewelry and his father’s life savings had been stolen by the police, Carlos realized his bank account had been frozen at the time of his arrest. Even after the charges against him were dropped, it has remained frozen.
“They have destroyed my life’s work,” Carlos said bitterly. But what he found unbearable was the assault on his reputation: “Men who look like [Adolf] Hitler [1889–1945] are saying I am a criminal in Argentina. Now that my name has been dragged through the tabloids I will never work again. I have been [falsely] ‘unmasked’ as a member of the ‘cult of horror’—as a brainwashing pimp—as if I were not much too busy promoting an infinitely more exciting and more lucrative profession as a world class magician!”
Carlos protested that the media portrayed him as a sleazy “cultist” who goes by the phony alias of “The Magician.” “But I ‘am’ a magician. It is not my ‘alias’—it is my honorable profession, my family tradition into which I was raised since the age of three!”
He spoke of Pablo Salum, the career apostate (Salum’s mother took him to BAYS meetings at age 10) who is Argentine’s fiercest anticult activist. Salum had told the media that BAYS was a “child abuser association.” [Pablo Salum has gone on record claiming the Dalai Lama is a “pederast,” and that the Mormon Church and the Carmelites are hiding “brainwashing” or “pedophile rings”].
Carlos protested: “This is an evil slander! The allegations against us were human trafficking and money laundering—that’s it! Child abuse was never part of the case. In my profession, where we magicians perform for families and schools, the tiniest hint of scandal involving pedophilia rumors will be the death knell for your career. No one will work with you ever again.”
Carlos’ health has declined rapidly since his release from prison. He is currently recovering from open heart surgery under the care of his old BAYS friends.
Carlos spoke of his most heartbreaking moment. While he was being held in prison, he was not allowed a leave to attend the homage ceremony for his late father, a great Argentinian magician. The ceremony was a public recognition of all the community service and charity that Carlos’ father had performed throughout his life. Carlos had been emulating his father by performing magic shows for fundraising benefits.