Another pyramid scam found in Pagadian

Posted at 11/19/12 6:44 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation raided another investment company in Pagadian City, believed to be a copycat and competitor of Aman Futures Group in the "double your money" scheme.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared that the firm, Visioner 2020 International Traders, Inc., is a "newly-sprouted" group in Tiguma, Pagadian City. The firm is said to be run by a British national, with help by local leader Glenda Andagan.

Some 20-30 people, mostly Maranaws from Lanao del Sur, have complained against the firm.

NBI District Director Norman Decampong said initial investigation showed the company got an estimated P60 million from investors although they have information that the scam could run to a billion pesos.

A cashier in the firm’s office said up to 200 investors a day lined up to give their money to Visioner. The company reportedly offered up to 52% return on investments monthly but lowered it to 30% after news broke on Aman Futures Group scamming P12 billion from investors.

"Kahit putok na putok na 'tong Aman [Futures] scam and [Coco] Rasuman scam, meron pa ring grupo, mga firms, na trying their luck to victimize people. Why are they (public) so gullible about this thing? Hindi ba sila nagbabasa ng dyaryo, hindi ba sila nanonood ng TV? Bakit nagpapabiktima pa rin sila? Government can only help those that want to be helped," De Lima said.

Entrapment, raid

In an ANC interview, Decampong said the agency had already been getting complaints about Visioner but could not verify its exact office address. He said it was only on Monday that the NBI received a tip about the firm’s area office, which led to the entrapment operation and raid.

The NBI conducted the entrapment operation using assets posing as investors with marked money as instrument.

Dicampong said the NBI was tipped off about Visioner’s office through an informant who lost P400,000 to Aman Futures Group.

He said the informant agreed to participate in the entrapment operation after being urged to invest in the new company, which only started operations in August.

During Monday’s raid, Visioner employees tried to shut down the building to prevent NBI agents from entering. Arrested in the raid were Andagan and 9 other employees of the group.

NBI agents also recovered the P30,000 marked money used in the transaction, several documents, and 5 firearms hidden in cabinets and cement bags.

Victims fall for same scam twice

Decampong said Visioner 2020 had no business permit and no secondary license although the firm is allegedly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“During our operation, marami din na mga claimants at hindi sila nabayaran. According to our initial investigation, more or less P60 million ang involved na pera dito. Nag umpisa lang sila ng operation nung August,” he said.

He also noted that some of the Visioner investors had already been victimized by Aman Futures but had hoped to get their money back through the new company.

One of Visioner’s investors, Lolit, was able to get back her P30,000 investment after the NBI raided the firm’s office. She said she had tried her luck with Visioner after losing money on Aman.

Many of Visioner’s investors broke into tears after learning that they had been victimized again by a pyramiding scam.

The NBI noted the official receipts issued by Visioner is almost the same as Aman receipts, with no proper identifications of legality such as name of company, address, TIN numbers and the like.

For her part, Andagan showed ABS CBN their SEC permit to operate a trading firm but admitted she has yet to secure a mayor’s permit since the local government allegedly stopped issuing certifications after the Aman scam.

She insisted that their operations are legal and that they have no motive of fleeing their investors. Andagan and 9 other Visioner employees are now under the custody of NBI Pagadian pending the filing of a case for large scale syndicated estafa.

Hunt for Aman Futures officers

The NBI, meanwhile, said it continues to verify the whereabouts of Aman Futures officers, even as coordination is ongoing with Malaysian authorities regarding the whereabouts of its founder, Malaysian Mohammad Suffian Saaid also known as Manuel Amalilio, who has been reported sighted in Malaysia.

Efforts are also ongoing to locate the assets of the firm here in the country.

Aman Futures has been implicated in a P12-billion pyramiding scam.

De Lima said the special panel of 14 prosecutors created to handle the preliminary investigation of over 8,000 complaints against the firm may possibly resolve any of the first 11 complaints before it so that charges may be filed in court and warrants for the arrest of the respondents issued "in a matter of days."

The NBI continues to investigate the possible use of public funds in the investment scam as several local officials were among those who invested in Aman Futures. -- With report from Ron Gagalac and Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News; and ANC