In July 2013, 17-year-old British national Daniel Perry jumped off the Forth Road Bridge in east central Scotland, putting an end to months of anguish.
It is Perry’s suicide that sparked an international probe into an online “sextortion” scheme based in the Philippines.
Watch this report below.
From Wednesday, April 30, to Thursday, May 1, different units of the Philippine police, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, and members of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) arrested at least 58 suspects involved in the scheme in various locations – Taguig City, Laguna and the Bicol region.
PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima, United Kingdom Ambassador Asif Ahmad, Interpol Digital Crime Center Director Sanjay Virmani, as well as police officials from Scotland and Hong Kong, announced the operations during a press briefing at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame on Friday, May 2.
Purisima said over 300 electronic devices were seized during the operations. The 58 arrested suspects are now undergoing inquest proceedings, he said.
How ‘sextortion’ works
The scheme is surprisingly simple: suspects would create fake accounts on Facebook, posing as “young attractive females” and befriending male foreigners. The suspects would then chat with their victims, eventually inviting them to communicate via Skype.
That’s when the trouble begins. The suspects would convince their “clients” to engage in cybersex. Little do their “clients” know that the entire act is being recorded.
The extortion then begins. The suspects would threaten to upload the videos online unless their victims paid up, demanding US$500-$2,000 dollars per victim.
Should the victims give in, the money would be sent to the Philippines through Western Union. The video is then deleted.
But if the victim didn’t pay up, the video would go online.
Perry, according to the police, pleaded with the extortionists not to upload the video. He said he would kill himself if they uploaded the video. Instead of listening, his extortionists even egged him on.
Police said the syndicate has been operating in the Philippines for about 4 years now.
Ahmad thanked the police units involved in the arrests, saying that this kind of crime “respects no nationality or border.” He added: “We are all potential victims of cybercrime.”
Ahmad said the social networks used by the gang cooperated with the police in tracking down the suspects. He did not specifically mention Facebook, but local authorities said Facebook did cooperate with them in the investigation.
Virmani noted that these crimes “are not limited to any one country, that is why international cooperation is important.” He added that the scale of the crime is “massive,” and that syndicate members only have one goal: to make money regardless of the damage they inflict on people.
According to the PNP, the following were arrested:
- Vincent Regori Bravo
- Archie “Gian” Tolin
- Jomar Palacio “Park Ji Man”
- Aldrin Villamonte
- Jemuel Matugina
- Emuross dela Cruz
- 34 persons arrested
Libmaan, Camarines Sur
- 18 persons arrested
Nabua, Camarines Sur
- 2 persons arrested
Also seized from the operations were computer sets, laptops, ATM cards, tablets, routers, cellphones, VCRs, and CCTV cameras. – Rappler.com
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