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DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines – It was well-planned. Swift. Precise. Brutal.
This was how businessmen in Dipolog described the operation of three women who in just two weeks had established a pseudo-trading company in the city, closed deals with local businessmen, and ran off with millions of pesos worth of products.
At least a dozen businessmen sought the help of the Zamboanga del Norte provincial board when they failed to locate the suspects after a week of searching.
The victims said the suspects used the names “Juliana Mae Javier Sales,” “Kristina Tan Yasi,” and “Celeste Dee Rama.”
It was Sales who stood as the proprietor of Feathelite Goods Trading, the company now in question.
Joven Uy, who runs a rent-a-car business, said the suspects rented a Toyota Fortuner but did not return the vehicle.
Uy said he would press charges against the suspects.
Provincial board member Michael Documento, the chairman of the Zamboanga del Norte legislature’s committee on peace and order, said there were others with similar complaints against the same group.
A car dealer alleged that the suspects fled with two SUVs from his establishment.
Another complained that he lost a mini-truck and mini-van.
The suspects also fled with at least 200 liquefied petroleum gas tanks, fire extinguishers, tires, bottled sardines, cellphones, eggs, motorcycles, school supplies, food products, and supplements, among others, from various establishments.
“There could be more businessmen victimized, but they were either scared of a backlash or too ashamed to be known as having been swindled,” Uy said.
Master Sergeant Rajeck Necesario said the suspects deceived many businessmen in Dipolog City and nearby towns in Zamboanga del Norte from the last week of August up to the first week of September.
Necesario said the local police were also alerted by their counterparts in Cagayan de Oro and Ozamiz cities about the illegal activities of the group.
He said the suspects used different names from one place to another.
Provincial board member Peter Co said many of the victims were reluctant in pressing charges.
Co said it baffled him that the suspects were able to avoid the scrutiny of the police, business regulators, and banks.
“Everything to complete a crime was in place,” said Vice Governor Julius Napigquit.
Before the provincial board, Necesario called on the victims to file cases against the suspects given the pieces of strong evidence available.
“They may not be using their real names, but we can identify their faces, and even know their body builds. We should be able to secure arrest warrants so we can do something when we find them,” Necesario told the provincial board.
He added, “We cannot do much because we are waiting for victims to take legal action, even by just one victim.”
Viola Pino, the head of Dipolog City’s Licensing and Permits Division, said the suspects secured a business permit after submitting documents required from other government agencies.
Pino also said Feathelite Goods Trading declared a P1-million business capital.
But she said her office no longer checked if the documents and the declared capital were valid.
“Once they submitted the required documents and permits, then go,” she said.
Rene Franco, a victim who lost cars to the women, blamed two banks whose checks the suspects used.
“I have been a depositor for years, but I was given a checking account only after six months. How come the suspects were able to secure a checking account in less than a month? The checks were the biggest contributor to these crimes,” Franco said.
Dave Mariano, a representative of the China Bank in Dipolog where the group has a checking account, said that “banks usually require six months before giving checking accounts, but it is also the banks’ discretion to issue checking accounts regardless of the six-month policy.”
Mariano asked, “Did the victims make a thorough verification of their clients?”
Co said what local officials can do at the moment is to write to the banks to formally inform them that checks from them were being used by a group to rip people off. – Rappler.com