8 Israelis, 474 Filipino call center agents face raps for online trading scam
Eight Israelis were among nearly 500 people rounded up on Wednesday at Clark Freeport in Pampanga province for allegedly engaging in a multimillion-dollar online trading scam.
The Philippine National Police presented the suspects at a press conference on Thursday at Camp Crame, its main headquarters in Quezon City.
PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said the group operated out of three buildings at Clark in Angeles City even without a business permit, allegedly duping people from countries such as Australia and South Africa.
Taken into custody were 474 Filipinos employed by International Branding Development Marketing Inc. (IBDM) as call center agents and the Israeli operators of the marketing company.
Four of the Israelis were identified as Gal Manobla, Natali Grin, Ishay Shaulov and Noa Hofman.
The foreigners and the Filipino workers were detained after police officers searched the company’s sales department at Clark Berthaphil III, its quality assurance and customer service department at Clark Center, and a third IBDM department at GMS Building, also in Clark.
IBDM was licensed to operate a call center providing “general online marketing and customer services, and other related support services for clients outside the Philippines,” according to Clark Development Corp. (CDC).
Albayalde said the group was rounded up by the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) for engaging in “fraudulent foreign financial transactions involving millions of dollars.”
ACG agents raided the three buildings on Wednesday on the strength of search warrants issued by Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano of the Regional Trial Court Branch 148 in Makati City.
The warrants were based on estafa complaints filed by Australians Jan Theresa Bedggood, Robert Wayne Smith and Juningsih Welford, and South African Barend Nicholaas Prinsloo.
The complainants claimed they lost millions of dollars to the online trading scam perpetrated by the suspects.
Chief Supt. Marni Marcos, PNP-ACG head, said the raiders found the eight Israelis managing operations in the three buildings and the Filipinos hired as call center agents communicating and conducting online transactions with clients from Europe, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Russia.
Marcos said his unit was able to extract digital evidence from computers maintained by IBDM.
The suspects had been operating for more than two years, duping victims and netting an average of $1 million daily, according to Marcos.
He said the scam was uncovered because of a tip from a former company insider.
“They invite investors online and get details of their bank accounts, credit cards,” Marcos said.
The PNP-ACG is coordinating with Interpol and Europol to identify other victims whose identities were extracted from the digital forensic examination.
Marcos said that once the group obtained financial information, a victim would be asked to download a computer app to enable the company to control money transfers using the victim’s bank and credit card accounts.
Charges of syndicated estafa will be filed in the Department of Justice against the Israelis and their Filipino employees.
The PNP will coordinate with the Bureau of Immigration on the case of the foreigners.
CDC canceled IBDM’s certificate of registration and tax exemption on Thursday.
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