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Police warn vs con gang preying on OFW relatives

By: - Correspondent / @nestorburgosINQ
/ 12:02 AM January 12, 2015

ILOILO CITY—Police have warned against the operations of a criminal group preying on mostly families of seafarers and overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

The group, believed to be operating in Iloilo and other areas, tricks relatives of OFWs into sending money in the belief that their loved ones were involved in accidents, or have been stricken ill, abroad.

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Police on Monday arrested one of the suspected members of the group in Tibiao town in Antique, after one of the victims reported the fraud.

The suspect, Jerry Talaman, had just picked up P100,000 from a remittance center when he was arrested by policemen.

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A mother of a seafarer sent the money from Pototan in Iloilo but sought police help after she became suspicious of Talaman.

She sent a total of P270,000 through money transfer services to Guimbal town in Iloilo, and Culasi and Tibiao towns in Antique, but police were able to stop the release of P100,000 only in Culasi, according to Senior Insp. Ariel Corcino, Pototan police chief.

The suspect Talaman told investigators he had sent P92,000 to the group’s alleged leader, Gilbert Tuliva, in Tigbauan town in Iloilo. He said the gang usually asks for P50,000 per victim.

Police failed to arrest Tuliva in Tigbauan, but found that there were at least five arrests warrants for estafa against him.

Members of the criminal group usually call prospective victims and pretend they are from manning agencies, employers, insurance firms or even government agencies. They concoct stories about medical emergencies or accidents then ask for money on behalf of supposedly sick or injured seafarers or OFWs.

It is still unclear how the group identifies its targets and how it acquires the targets’ telephone numbers.

Corcino said victims are tricked into inadvertently revealing more information which the caller affirms to make the appeal for help sound real.

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At least 15 victims and those who received similar calls went to the Pototan police station after they learned of Talaman’s arrest.

Corcino said some of the victims said they also sent money to remittance centers in Iloilo City, other towns in Iloilo, Batangas and Manila.

“They could have accomplices in other areas. They also ask their victims to send the money to many areas to mislead and make it difficult to monitor and apprehend,” he said.

Police brought Talaman from Tibiao to Pototan early Tuesday where he is detained and facing estafa charges.

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