crimes in the Philippines

CIDG busts gang that tried to extort from Senate President Zubiri

Herbie Gomez

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CIDG busts gang that tried to extort from Senate President Zubiri

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri talks to the media on June 1.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Scammers pose as Siquijor Governor Jake Vincent Villa and a provincial board member to make Senate President Migz Zubiri shell out money for a supposed convention

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) arrested in Zambales in Central Luzon two suspected gang members specializing in extorting from gullible government officials, in an entrapment that involved Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s staff.

The suspects allegedly posed as Siquijor Governor Jake Vincent Villa and Provincial Board Member Abner Lomongo, and tried to make Zubiri shell out P50,000 for a supposed political convention, said Brigadier General Ronald Lee, Cordillera police director.

In a statement, Zubiri said the group had victimized some of his colleagues, but he did not identify any of the victims.

Police identified two of the arrested suspects as Bryan Ryan Ledesma, 23-year-old online seller, and Danilo Guillermo Ledesma, a 46-year-old farmer. The relationship between the two Ledesmas is unclear as of this posting.

Police have also started a manhunt for two other suspects identified as Kenneth Reyes Ledesma and Sarah Arciaga Contreras.

Police said Danilo was armed with a caliber .45 pistol loaded with seven bullets.

Danilo, police said, had a record of being arrested for an alleged drug-related offense in Castillejos, Zambales.

Police pressed charges against the arrested suspects for robbery, extortion, and usurpation of authority in Olongapo. Danilo was also charged with illegal gun possession.

CIDG agents and the Zambales police pounced on the two Ledesmas during an entrapment that involved Zubiri’s staff in Purok 5, Villa Garcia, San Pablo, Castillejos in Zambales on the evening of August 15.

Authorities seized from the suspects marked money, identification cards, mobile phones, and the SIM card allegedly used in communicating with Zubiri.

Lee said the suspects had sent a string of text messages to Zubiri on August 14.

Sensing that he was being ripped off, Zubiri alerted Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Rodolfo Azurin, and they mapped out an entrapment plan.

Police said the suspects agreed to personally meet Zubiri’s staff in Zambales, where they were cornered.

Zubiri said he personally called Governor Villa, who was clueless about the claim of the suspects.

The Senate President said he could not say how the suspects got his personal contact information, “but I knew from the start that they were bogus.”

Zubiri said the incident should serve as a compelling reason for a law on SIM card registration. –

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