BEFORE the multibillion-peso Aman Futures pyramiding scam, there was an even bigger fraudulent moneymaking scheme in the south, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
But while the Jachob “Coco” Rasuman group in Lanao del Sur scammed more money before it was shut down, it arguably victimized fewer investors in its schemes than Aman Futures, which snared some 15,000 people, the NBI said.
“We cannot at this time commit to an exact figure but our estimate based on the investigation is that the Rasuman group got more money and have fewer victims compared to the Aman Futures,” said Virgilio Mendez, NBI deputy director for regional services.
And in a bizarre kind of justice, Rasuman itself became a victim of Aman Futures. It invested its money in Aman and lost everything, said Mendez.
Just to show what kind of money was involved in the Rasuman group scam, Mendez cited a case in Cagayan de Oro City in which the group received P300 million in investment from only 29 investors.
Ties to Muslim royalty
“Investors of Rasuman were moneyed people, while those of Aman Futures were ordinary people,” he said.
Apparently, Rasuman attracted more affluent investors because it was founded and was run by a legitimate businessman with ties to Muslim royalty, the NBI said.
Rasuman, who founded the Rasuman group in 2010, is a known businessman in Iligan City whose business interests included the sole distributorship of Holcim Cement in Mindanao, restaurants, car sales, fuel and others.
He is married to a Princess Tomawis whose family is also engaged in various businesses in the region, the NBI said.
“Before the downfall of Rasuman, he was considered a hero for making their standard of living higher by people who initially profited from his double-your-money scheme,” Mendez said.
The Rasuman group shut down its operations in July when it ran out of money to pay its investors.
However, its pyramiding scam operations only came to light last week when the Aman Futures scam exploded in the media.
According to Mendez, the group of Cagayan de Oro investors brought no complaint against Rasuman to authorities then because they had been told that their money had been invested in Aman Futures.
Unlike Aman, there were no complaints brought against Rasuman because the group only operated in the Muslim areas of Tamparan and Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, and Iligan City, and its investors were mainly Muslims like Rasuman himself.
Mendez added that unlike the victims of Aman who became violent, the Rasuman case was “resolved in a peaceful solution through the intervention of religious leaders in the area.”
“The victims were urged by the religious leaders to stand down and give the family a chance to pay,” Mendez said.
“The Rasuman family had promised to pay all the investors until February of 2013,” he said.
Mendez said Rasuman was now in the custody of the Philippine National Police.
According to Mendez, Rasuman and Aman Futures leader Manuel Amalilio had no personal relationship and had no links at all, except that Rasuman was victimized by Aman Futures.
“They do not know each other. However, our investigation showed that Rasuman in a last effort to save his venture invested all his money, along with those of his investors with Aman Futures, which were also lost,” he said.
The NBI said Rasuman’s modus operandi differs in some aspects from that of Aman Futures.
While Aman Futures started with market vendors, Rasuman began his investment scheme by getting into buying and selling cars to raise quick cash.
“The scheme is cash conversion,” said Mendez.
As explained in the NBI report, Rasuman would buy a car with a market value of only P100,000 at a higher rate of P150,000. But the seller had to wait for two months before the vehicle is paid.
Rasuman, the report said, would then sell the car at a still lower price for quick cash, which he then used as capital to invest in other ventures.
In 2010, the NBI report said Rasuman hired at least 50 agents to look for investors. The agents were promised 80 percent return on investment. These agents in turn would promise the investors they found a 40 to 70 percent profit.
“The difference was the commission of the agents,” the report said.
Cash transactions only
The report also indicated that all transactions involved only cash, and were done in the privacy of Rasuman’s office in Iligan City.
“Rasuman did not accept checks from his agents, he signed an unofficial receipt acknowledging the investment after he was given the cash,” the report said.
Initially, Rasuman and his agents, “avoided bank transactions and only negotiated in cash.”
Bank transactions were only used if an investor became insistent on being given a postdated check as a guarantee of the investment.
According to the NBI, Rasuman went around escorted always by armed men.
The report also spoke of local officials who were involved in the Rasuman scheme.
Based on statements from those “in the know,” these were the mayors of Madamba, Lanao del Sur, Iligan and Marawi City, the NBI report said.
A congressman in Iligan and the head of the Armed Forces in Lanao del Sur was also linked to the scam, it said.
“We could not say yet if they are involved or victims,” said Mendez of the public officials.
Hiding out in resort
Meanwhile, the NBI said it was looking into reports that the manager of Aman Futures was hiding in a resort owned by the governor of a Mindanao province.
Mendez said the investigation stemmed from statements given by victims of Aman Futures who asked not to be named.
He said the NBI received information that Fernando “Nonoy” Luna and his family were hiding in a resort in Zamboanga.
“We have not validated the information, but we are in the process of the investigation where all possible links are under scrutiny,” Mendez said.
He surmised that the governor was being linked to Luna “maybe because the NBI investigation showed the brother of Luna, Roberto, is the personal driver of the governor.”