‘Sweet talker’ nabbed for duping governor of P500,000
SAN PEDRO CITY — The police arrested on Wednesday afternoon a woman accused of duping a government official into paying half a million pesos by posing as a member of the staff of Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno.
Supt. Harold Depositar, the city police chief, said the suspect, Michelle Almonte, was arrested at her house in Barangay San Vicente here at around 3:00 p.m. The warrnt of arrest was issued by a court in North Cotabato.
In a phone interview, Depositar said police had been monitoring Almonte’s movements since January after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) coordinated with them.
According to the DILG internal security unit, Almonte made “personal phone calls” to acting North Cotabato Gov. Shirlyn Masacarte-Villanueva and pretended to be member of Sueno’s staff.
Almonte supposedly told Villanueva that the province would need to pay P500,000 to hasten the release of government patrol cars supposedly for North Cotabato, Depositar said, quoting the DILG office.
“I just talked to her and she really was a sweet talker,” Depositar said, describing the suspect as someone in her mid-20s.
Depositar said the DILG internal security unit helped them trace the P500,000 deposit made to Almonte’s bank account in January. He said there were also security camera footage that showed Almonte withdrawing the amount.
“Aside from that, there were two more tranches of P200,000 and three more tranches of P100,000 deposited to the same account of the suspect,” Depositar said. “And those were just in one bank account. We don’t know if there were still others.”
Investigators suspect that Almonte also duped other government officials. But Depositar declined to name them at the moment.
“We believe she was working as part of a syndicate,” he said.
Early in March, the National Bureau of Investigation arrested Vimbi Flores Avilla, also in this city, for extorting money from businessmen by posing as Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
The police will file an estafa complaint against Almonte. /atm