Firm faces estafa raps

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet  – The operator of an investment company that reportedly folded up without any warning was charged with multiple estafa charges before the provincial prosecutor’s office after they were divested with over P2.3 million through the controversial ponzi scheme.

The complainants, who are mostly from Mankayan and Buguias towns, were reportedly enticed to invest in the said company managed by Herminia Sulik-ap Pagaduan after they were promised high interest of their invested money and after initial investors showed to them the checks of their payouts, indicating that the company is capable of appropriately handling their investments and sustaining the high interest.

The 19 complainants said the Abatan-based Ponzi scheme company was able to divest from them a total of P2.3 million over the past several months considering that it started operating at the last quarter of 2014 and folded up just recently.

The filing of the multiple estafa cases against the manager of 3 Angels General Merchandise was facilitated by combined elements of the Anti-Investment Scam Task Force which was organized to go after dozens of companies operating in the region which are described to be offering Ponzi schemes in order to divest people of their hard earned money.

Under the scheme of Three Angels General Merchandise, investors are promised a 25 percent monthly interest on their money plus P500 worth of free items every pay out.

According to the complainants, the company reportedly displayed spurious registration from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and business permits from host local governments.

The complainants were forced to file the estafa charges against the Three Agnels General Merchandise after they could no longer contact its officials aggravated by the fact that their offices in the said areas suddenly closed operations without justifiable reasons that were explained to them.

Lawyer Annie Gonzales Tesoro, director of the Baguio-based Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), said people who were victimized by companies that had been offering Ponzi schemes should immediately seek the assistance of the task force that was created in order to prevent innocent people from losing their hard earned money by simply placing it with the companies that eventually collapse in a few months.

The Anti-Investment Scam Task Force is composed of representatives from the SEC, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) both in the Cordillera.

Tesoro said NBI-CAR takes charge of the complaints filed against Ponzi scheme operators in Baguio while CIDG-CAR takes charge of those complaints coming from different parts of the region with the different city and provincial police offices providing back up personnel for enhanced intelligence operations.

Aside from Three Angels General Merchandise, Ponzi scheme firms that have already closed operations include Stiforp Trading along Magsaysay Avenue and Buena Dinero along Mabini Street while some 21 DTI and SEC-registered companies offering high interests on supposed investments are now being investigated for such investment scam.

Other companies under the task force’s watchlist include MGoldex, Buena Dinero and Stiforp.

Tesoro explained people can easily detect if a company is offering a ponzi scheme or investment scam because it promises high interest on investments even without a legitimate business to show proof that it could generate enough resources to justify the high interest it is offering the people.

Further, she disclosed Ponzi scheme operators do not have the required SEC secondary license to solicit securities from the public.

While it is true that some of the companies are registered with the SEC or DTI, she argued the display of their issued permits should not be a reason to justify their illegal mode of operations, thus, the need for people to first consult the concerned agencies if such mode of operation is legitimate before placing their hard earned money to such schemes.

Meanwhile, another investment company which had been paying its members semi-monthly for the payouts of their investments posted an advisory in their Baguio and La Trinidad offices that the future payouts of investments will now be monthly considering that their operations are affected by the stringent international banking standards.

However, Tesoro warned that such deviation from the company’s earlier commitments to its investors is a sign of the company suffering from financial losses that might result to closure once members will start pulling out their investments.

By Dexter A. See

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