Couple in P900-M scam faces raps
The man who allegedly orchestrated a P900-million pyramiding scam, which he passed off as a Bitcoin investment scheme, was so honey-tongued that he had to be kept in isolation until formal charges were filed against him and his wife.
Even their custodians at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police were ordered not to speak to suspected con artist Arnel Ordonio, operator of New G Bitcoin Investment Trading.
He was arrested along with his wife, Leonady, in an entrapment operation on Wednesday last week in Ilocos Sur.
Promise of money
“While he (Arnel) was in custody, he was overheard promising someone that as soon as he gets out, he would bring out the money,” the PNP-CIDG chief, Director Roel Obusan, said in a press conference at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Tuesday.
“We could not allow that,” Obusan said.
He said he had ordered his men to avoid speaking to Ordonio because he was afraid the suspect could sweet-talk his way out of custody.
“So I waited for the charges to be filed against them before giving any clearance for anyone to speak with him,” said the PNP official.
Even one of the female victims was convinced that once Ordonio was released, he could return the money she had invested.
“We know Arnel,” former overseas worker Jocelyn Estolas said. “He returns the money even in installments. We can no longer recover our money now that he is here [in police custody].”
Estolas claimed that the “uplines” (investor recruiters) were being threatened by the people they had persuaded to invest.
Another victim, however, blamed Ordonio for her woes.
“We already spoke with Arnel and he did not do anything to return our investments. It had to end up here where we and he are in deep trouble,” Irish Batangan said. “He is no longer in any position to return our money.”
The complaint filed in the CIDG’s Anti-Organized Crime Unit (AOCU) by 48 victims resulted in the Ordonio couple’s arrest on April 4 in an entrapment operation on Calle Crisologo in Vigan City.
Obusan said the couple had asked for P2 million from one of their alleged victims purportedly to process the withdrawal of their bitcoin trading investment from coins.ph.com. The Ordonios claimed they had encountered problems with the website.
The AOCU set up the entrapment operation for the meeting where the victim promised to give the couple P50,000.
Recovered from the suspects were a laptop and a mobile phone believed to have been used by the duo for their illegal activities.
According to Obusan, the Ordonio couple allegedly lured people to invest in their online business, which trades in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, promising a 30-percent return on investment with payouts every 15 days.
“When you browse YouTube and see this couple, they have a video where they are throwing away bundles of P500 from the second story of their home. That’s how they present themselves as earning so much by way of Bitcoin,” the PNP-CIDG director said.
“But he (Ordonio) is not connected to Bitcoin,” he added.
He said the couple was simply involved in a pyramiding scam that used Bitcoin as a lure.
At the press conference, several of the victims spoke to reporters, most of them expressing high hopes of recovering some of the money they had invested.
Rosanne Maglunog said she and her husband were invited by a friend to invest in New G until they went on to encourage their relatives to put in money that totaled P29 million in November and December last year.
She and her husband put in P4 million.
Maglunog said she and her husband were given two investment options: P90,000 and P160,000. If an investor could not get “downlines” (other invited investors), his personal money could be invested.
For a P90,000 investment, there was a P15,000 payout every 15 days, which Arnel said he could no longer make.
Maglunog said she had a hunch last December that she and her husband were being scammed when the Ordonios posted on social media that they could no longer issue a payout to investors.
The victim said that when she and her husband got in touch with Ordonio on Facebook on Feb. 28, he promised to give them P3 million every five days so they could recover their capital. Ordonio did not keep the promise.
This prompted Maglunog and her husband to seek the help of the Malolos City police, which referred them to the PNP-CIDG.
The Ordonio couple was charged with estafa/swindling and syndicated estafa in the Department of Justice. They remain in the custody of the PNP-CIDG.
PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa advised the public not to fall for investment schemes promising huge returns.
“If you encounter a scheme that is too good to be true—offering a huge interest rate—
that’s a scam. Don’t be fooled,” he said.
Dela Rosa admitted that he himself was a victim of a scam. —WITH A REPORT FROM JHOANNA BALLARAN
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