A mug shot photo of Kat Torres - a pretty blonde woman - arrested with an orange f
Kat Torres. Photo: Franklin County Sheriff's Office, North Carolina.

Kat Torres: The Wellness Influencer Suspected of Human Trafficking

The wellness guru and self-proclaimed “witch” is accused of using manipulation and hypnosis to traffic young women.

Thought that ayahuasca always leads folks to higher states of consciousness? Well, think again. A Brazilian ex-model and wellness influencer who may have abused the hallucinogenic brew has been accused of controlling and enslaving fans into a cult-ish sorority and is awaiting trial in jail under modern slavery charges.


Self-proclaimed “witch” Katiuscia Torres, 34, (who denies the allegations) was arrested in November in the U.S. for visa irregularities while trying to enter Canada. But the case linking Torres to crimes is much more sinister than an out of date ESTA. After being deported back to Brazil, she was detained following a high-profile campaign led by the family of a female fan who was allegedly lured into working for her under false pretences. 

It’s not the first time she’s made news across the world, either. She once implied she was dating Leonardo DiCaprio in an interview – which led to a magazine cover labelling her as the actor’s “new blonde” – before she backtracked and admitted they were just friends.


It seems an economical relationship with the truth, coupled with a lust for fame and fortune, has finally come unstuck.

But this all started a lot more vanilla – Torres was once a successful model in Europe, who later moved to LA to pursue acting. She gained followers from her influencer lifestyle and by setting up an Instagram account for a series of memes using her own photos, including one that charted her journey from poverty to New York City.

After discovering ayahuasca and sharing her healing journey online, she reinvented herself as a life coach and hypnotist, while reportedly spending time in a LA community that uses the hallucinogenic Amazonian tea as a sacrament. She has said members of the group used the visionary psychedelic sparingly, but that she drank it monthly as she was apparently considered to be a medium.

In 2017, she released a trippy self-help book called A Voicewhich she claimed to have been instructed to write by a higher power – and soon enough she coerced many of her 1.2 million followers (mostly Brazilian women) down a shadowy spiritual path, promising solutions to help them manifest a life like hers. She reportedly charged hundreds of dollars for consultations and dating advice, among other services, but it seems she might be another wellness guru scammer.


How did this lead her to modern slavery charges? Torres is suspected of encouraging Brazilian girls to join her in the U.S., promising impressionable women including Leticia Maia Alvarenga, 21, and Desirrê Freitas, 25, a lavish lifestyle, and the prospect of marrying successful men.

Mug shots of Kat Torres, Desirré Freitas and Letícia Alvarenga at Franklin County Sheriff's Office, North Carolina.

Mug shots of Kat Torres, Desirré Freitas and Letícia Alvarenga. Photo: Franklin County Sheriff's Office, North Carolina.

Something quite different unfolded, though. Photos of the two reportedly featured on escort websites and both of them dyed their dark hair blonde, creating an eerie resemblance to Torres. Creepy videos such as the preparation of a so-called “alien bath” attracted attention, and the saga became a major news story in Brazil — providing bizarre fodder for talk shows, as wall-to-wall coverage charted every development.

The parents of the girls declared Alvarenga and Freitas missing and set up social media campaigns to find them. Alvarenga justified distancing herself from her family by claiming abuse at the hands of her father (which she later retracted). The intensity of the search for the girls increased after top Brazilian model Yasmín Brunet basically called Torres out when she entered an Instagram Live staged by Alvarenga to deflect suspicions and prove she was safe.


During one of the fishy transmissions, Brunet asked her to film the room around her to quell the doubts of those who believed she was being threatened, but Alvarenga is said to have become irritated and abruptly ended the live stream. Then, in a dubious turning of the tables, Alvarenga falsely accused the renowned model Brunet of running a sex worker racket. Torres meanwhile posted hysterical entrapment denials on Facebook.

But Brunet, who has 3.2 million followers, made a police complaint against the accusations. “I’m going to make a point of showing them that there are indeed laws on the internet that need to be followed,” she said on Instagram

“In a clear demonstration of opportunism – seeing the scope of the media exposure that she was having from the use of the name of a public person like Yasmin Brunet – Letícia  [Alvarenga] started to feed and spread more and more disconnected stories and without any concern with the result caused to the reputation,” says Brunet’s lawyer in a statement.


As for how Torres managed to get Alvarenga and Freitas to go along with the whole thing, there has been some public speculation she may have also used ayahuasca (as well as hypnotism and manipulation) to confuse the women who lived with her and keep them subordinated – though, neither of them have confirmed this yet. 

“Several times they appeared drugged and speaking disconnected phrases”, O Globo reports of ritualistic videos posted by Torres, like the “alien bath”. While the medicine – also known as yagé – has powerfully transformative healing benefits and has been used for millennia, it can be abused by unscrupulous shamans seeking to manipulate participants. Used irresponsibly by malicious facilitators, like any psychedelic, it can seriously damage people’s mental health.


“The Federal Court of São Paulo issued a preventive arrest warrant against her for the crime of subjecting people to conditions analogous to slavery, within the scope of investigations by the Federal Public Ministry,” O Globo adds. 

Freitas, after returning home from the U.S. following Torres’ arrest, has since spoken out against her. “I was a victim,” she says to O Globo, speaking for the first time since returning home. “She used my faith, spirituality, empathy and the feeling of friendship I had for her to make me move to another country and do things that go against my essence. Through manipulation and abuse of faith, she pushed me away from the people I loved most, until I found myself completely alone, with no escape and totally under her thumb.” Freitas also publicly apologised for the false accusations made against Brunet, claiming they were orchestrated by Torres.


Alvarenga has made similar comments, reportedly telling authorities she was “manipulated all the time”. Her lawyer, Luiz Henrique Santana, told local media: “She denied there was any abuse [against her by her father], and said she was instructed [by Torres] to say so to keep the family at bay.”

Torres faces the possibility of a very long sentence – especially given the whole host of other claims that have materialised. “The dozens of complaints involve complaints of extortion, false imprisonment, sexual exploitation, among others,” continues O Globo.

Gladys Pacheco is the lawyer representing many of them. “Among other things, she asked for money to solve – in a miraculous and secret way – the problems of these victims,” Pacheco says.


One has told of allegedly being extorted for more than $20,000 while doing everything Torres demanded. “She and the girls treated me like a queen,” she says. “But I started to see that baths with crystals didn’t work; my ex didn’t look for me; and the girls let slip that Kat [Torres] had forbidden them to talk about business with me. After five days I left and never spoke to any of them again.”

Another anonymous woman claims Torres suggested she go work as a “sugar baby” in the U.S. “She wanted to have several girls doing the same as me because she told me she intended to set up an Airbnb for that,” says the reported victim.

Torres' lawyer, Rodrigo Menezes, has been contacted for comment. He previously told Brazilian media that his client “never committed the crimes of which she is accused”. On the allegations she’s facing, he expressed trust that federal authorities “will know how to filter with notoriety information devoid of any veracity, from those who seek to achieve some fame through this episode”. The idea that she could subject people to conditions comparable to slavery, he says, is not valid and “this will be proven throughout the procedural instruction”.

This saga is huge news in Brazil but the “witch” was only first critically mentioned in English-language media by the Substack blog The Challenging Psychedelic Experiences Project, earlier this month.

Where will this tale end? A Netflix series is probably the only thing certain at this point.