MEXICO CITY - Police said they have busted a gang called the "eyedroppers" that used flirtatious young women to rob men after drugging their drinks, resulting in the deaths of almost two dozen victims.

Evidence released yesterday by Mexico City prosecutors revealed a chilling robbery-and-murder scheme that was long rumored to exist in the capital's underworld but in fact operated in 10 states over several years.

Known as the "goteras" or "eyedroppers" for allegedly tranquilizing victims with potentially deadly eyedrops and other drugs, the gang is suspected in 23 deaths and 28 other robbery cases since 2004, according to the Mexico City attorney general's office.

Substances found in some eyedrops - especially those used by doctors to relax eye muscles during examinations - can be toxic if swallowed, and can lead to coma or death.

Authorities said 10 suspects - five men and five women - have been arrested in a series of raids starting in April. The investigation continues, and the gang may have dozens of members.

"One, two or as many as four women in a restaurant, bar or nightclub would start flirting from their table, with the intention of being invited over by their future victims," according to the case file. "They adopted an attitude of being willing to have sex."

The women allegedly would then lure men to seedy hotels or private homes and serve them drinks laced with knockout drugs.

One victim "passed out within a few minutes and when he awoke was nauseated, had a headache and blurred vision," the case file read. "Upon regaining consciousness, he realized that his friend had died and the women they had been partying with had stolen several of their possessions."

At least one foreigner, an American, was robbed by the gang, but did not die.

Authorities said the gang tried to knock the victims out for as long as possible, allowing time to cash checks, drain bank accounts and rack up credit-card purchases. It was unclear whether the deaths were intentional or due to lack of knowledge about dosage. *