It was early last month when Roldan Alesna, manager of the Suwon Jonghap Car Dealer, first spotted two Hyundai Starex vehicles at their shop.
He and two employees identified as Michael Prado and Tommy Barcelo were ordered by their 33-year-old employer, Kim Kyung Hwan, to change the engines and chassis numbers of the two vehicles.
They were later told to bury the dismantled engines which they did, covering them with mud and wood.
When Alesna asked Kim why they had to bury the engine, his boss replied, “It’s okay.”
A month later, Alesna, Prado and Barcelo were invited for questioning by the Mandaue City police in relation to the recovery of stolen Hyundai Starex vans found at various areas in the city.
During yesterday’s inquiry at the Mandaue City police office, Alesna said he didn’t know that the Starex vehicles were stolen.
He said he and four men went to the Castillex compound, in barangay Cabancalan, Mandaue City to repaint the two Starex vehicles last Feb. 16.
Alesna said he saw about five vehicles inside the warehouse at the time.
Alesna, who worked in the shop for the past eight months, said he wanted to clear his name on the case.
He said he thought the Starex vehicles were owned by two of Kim’s friends, 32-year-old Wonseok Lee and 34-year-old Janghyun Lee.
Prado is a 22-year-old stay-in worker and native of Argao town while 38-year-old Barcelo, an auto body builder, lives in barangay Banilad, Mandaue City.
Kim Kyung Hwan, Wonseok Lee and Janghyun Lee were arrested in Mandaue City last Wednesday after they were spotted by four policemen leaving a Starex van in front of a subdivision in Barangay Casuntingan.
“The statements of the three employees may be used against the suspects,” said Senior Insp. Michael Bastes, chief of the Investigation and Detection Management Branch (IDMB) of the Mandaue City Police Office.
The night before the three Koreans were arrested, a registered nurse together with 42-year-old Kim Jhe Young, alias Leo “Andy” Lim and 32-year-old Hong Seo Yong alias Luis, 32 were also arrested by Mandaue City and regional police.
Bastes said they received information on a car display center that reportedly sells stolen Hyundai Starex vehicles.
He denied disclosing where the shop is, saying it is somewhere n Metro Cebu.
Bastes said they are pursuing a certain Chu and Mr. Lim of Mactan, Lapu-Lapu who were said to be the masterminds of the car theft syndicate.
Casimiro Madarang III, alien control officer of the Bureau of Immigration in Central Visayas (BID-7) said their records showed that one of the Koreans was found to be overstaying in Cebu but didn’t mention names.
“We need the birthdates of the three Koreans because all of them have practically the same names,” he said.