Bohol, Davao investors lose P2B in new scam
TAGBILARAN CITY—At least 300 residents in Bohol province have sought the help of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to recover at least P2 billion which they lost to people behind a new scam.
Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap tasked the National Bureau of Investigation and the CIDG to investigate the matter as the provincial legal office stepped in to help the victims of what they called as “repa” or “paluwagan,” an informal group money-lending system.
The same financial scheme has also victimized at least 50 people in the Davao region.
Simplicio Sagarino, chief of Davao City’s Anti-Scam Unit (ASU), said about 50 people had filed complaints with his office, with some of them claiming to have invested as high as P10 million.
Sagarino said what lured many of the investors was the high returns received by those who joined the scheme earlier.
In a statement on Monday, Yap said at least 150 affidavits had been filed by “buyers and sellers” of the investment scheme.
A help center supervised by the provincial government, the police, and the CIDG was put up to assist the victims. Yap urged other investors to file their complaints in municipal police stations in the province to avoid congestion at the center.
The scam takes off from the paluwagan, a traditional money-saving practice among groups whose members know one another, either because they are officemates or friends or they belong to a clan or family.
Members usually contribute to a pot of money that each of them will receive when their turn comes. The rotation is usually decided by drawing lots (repa in Bisaya or “ripa” in Filipino).
As practiced, the paluwagan is built on trust and that no profit is promised because the total amount of the pot at a given time is the same that one will contribute over the entire life of the scheme. In Bohol, the scheme has many “administrators” who are usually hiding from its investors, the complainants said.
A woman went to the provincial police headquarters at Camp Francisco Dagohoy here last week, asking policemen to help her recover P35 million which was set to be returned to her clients whom she called “buyers.”
She said she failed to release the payout to her “buyers” when the administrators and coordinators disappeared.
“I have been receiving death threats from my buyers. If I can’t return the money or even the capital, they said they will kill me,” she said.
The woman said she didn’t know the “administrators” since she just remitted the money to a “coordinator.”
In Davao City, ASU’s Sagarino said the complainants were lured by the prospect of earning more if they invest more of their money.
In an interview with a local radio station, a complainant said he lost P400,000 while an acquaintance put in P7.7 million.
Those behind the scheme in Davao tweaked the traditional repa system, Sagarino said in a phone interview.
He said the transactions were done online, requiring one to become a member of designated chat groups where both the scheme’s administrators and investors meet and agree on the investment terms. Pay-in is through online wallets.
Investors usually buy slots with the promise that, for example, a P1,000 pay-in will grow to P2,500 at the end of one week.
“Initially, many received their return of investments, so more people decided to invest while those who have already invested have increased their investment,” Sagarino said.
He said investors were made to believe that they would earn because other investors decided to sell their slots before the expected payout, settling for a lower amount of investment return.
The trading of investment slots has also driven more interest from others who have missed the schedule when these were first offered.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Davao Extension Office warned the public to be cautious in putting their money in investment instruments.
“Do not invest in schemes that are not registered, because you might find yourself on the losing end,” the agency said.
“If it is too good to be true, and the transaction is done in a discreet manner, the people should suspect [the legitimacy of the scheme],” it added.
The SEC has been raising alert over schemes, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic when people are looking for immediate sources of income.
In June 2019, the NBI began its crackdown of the Kapa Community Ministry International headed by Joel Apolinario for running a Ponzi scheme disguised as a religious charity, promising at least 30-percent return.
It was estimated that the Kapa scheme duped over 2 million people and amassed over P60 billion.
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