Scam modus of Pogo-linked trafficker: Models used, workers tortured – Hontiveros
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros exposed on Tuesday a human trafficking operation linked to multiple Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos), where models lured unsuspecting victims into becoming prey.
Traffickers tortured failed salespeople.
Hontiveros presented her findings to the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality on human trafficking after visiting Colorful and Leap Group Company in Sun Valley Hub, Clark, Pampanga.
“Sa unang tingin, mukhang mga call center lang ang mga opisinang ito. However, closer scrutiny will reveal the nefarious schemes that are perpetrated here,” said Hontiveros in her privilege speech.
(At first glance, these offices looked just like call centers. However, closer scrutiny will reveal the nefarious schemes perpetrated here.)
“Dito sa mga desk na ito … nagtratrabaho ang mga trafficked nationals mula sa Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bhutan, Morocco, Nepal at iba pa, at ang ginagawa nila araw araw ay magpa-ibig ng mga foreigner – kadalasan mga lalaki – at matapos nito ay pilitin silang mag-invest sa cryptocurrency,” she added.
(Here at these desks … trafficked nationals from Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bhutan, Morocco, Nepal and others work, and what they do every day is to make foreigners fall in love – usually men – and after that force them to invest in cryptocurrency.)
Hontiveros witnessed one of the rooms Pogo used to trick unknowing victims, a “video room,” used by hired models to charm foreigners.
“You just have to say hello in the video calls,” one hired model in Hontiveros’ probe said.
The model showed several rooms conveniently designed to resemble bedrooms or living rooms to help them appear as genuine as the characters they were told to portray.
She explained the company also generated fake identical photos of the models.
If personnel failed to find customers or if they committed supposed mistakes or violations, they were trapped in a “dark room.”
“Sila ay ikukulong ng tatlong araw na isang cup noodles lang ang pagkain buong araw, at walang kama o upuan,” said Hontiveros.
(They would be imprisoned for three days with only one cup of noodles to eat all day and no bed or chair.)
“Pag gusto daw mag resign, ikukulong muna sa dark room na ito para mawala sa ulirat at magbago ang isip. Ang tawag nga daw ng boss nila sa silid na ito ay ‘meditation room’ dahil dito daw sila mag-isip isip. Nakatakip ang bintana. Walang kama o upuan at hindi sapat ang pagkain,” the lawmaker narrated.
(If you want to resign, you will first be locked in this dark room to lose consciousness and change your mind. Their boss calls this room the ‘meditation room’ because it is where they think. The window is covered. There is no bed or chair and there is not enough food.)
“Sabihin niyo sa akin. Is this not a human rights violation?” she asked.
(Tell me. Is this not a human rights violation?)
Investigations showed the company’s head office was opulent, in contrast to the dismal state of the rooms of the trafficked workers.
Hontiveros said the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) confiscated 42 vaults containing cash worth P187 million from the facility.
1,090 persons were rescued during a police raid at the Colorful and Leap Group Company on May 4, 2023.
The rescued victims were allegedly forced to work in a “fraudulent cyber-enabled industry,” victimizing other people to invest in cryptocurrencies.
As many as 919 victims were foreigners, while the rest were Filipinos.