Timeline: The Aman Futures pyramid scam

Natashya Gutierrez

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Rappler traces the development of the Aman Futures pyramid scam in Pagadian City and the alleged role played by Samuel Co

MANILA, Philippines – Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co and his wife were charged with syndicated estafa on Wednesday, November 28, for his alleged involvement in the Aman Futures Group money scam that duped about 15,000 investors from Visayas and Mindanao.

The charges come two months after the Aman office in Pagadian City closed. The pyramid scam, dubbed one of the biggest in the country’s history, is estimated to have robbed investors of P12-billion worth of hard-earned cash.

Co has denied all charges.

Below is the timeline of events as compiled from various interviews:

January – Aman starts encouraging the public to invest.

April – Aman is given a business permit for general merchandise.

June 4, 2012 – Co says he ordered an investigation on Aman.

Police later told Co there were no complainants and they could not collect evidence because money was deposited to the account of Fernando Luna, who ran Aman operations in Pagadian City. They recommended Co to cancel the business permit.

June 6, 2012 – Aman submits necessary documents to allow them to keep their permit, including a Securities and Exchange Commission registration, and a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) permit presumably signed by DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo. Aman claimed the money went to Okachi Malaysia, a trading firm.

June 18, 2012 – Co says he canceled the permit, with the excuse that the business doesn’t suit the permit that the city granted them. Aman’s business was categorized as investments but the permit was for general merchandise.

Despite the cancellation of the permit, operations and collection of money continued. Co said investors begged him not to close it because they earned money.

June 29, 2012 – Co says he wrote to Sangguniang Panglungsod to help him stop operations. He said he doesn’t know what Sangguniang Panglungsod’s conclusion was.

July 3, 2012 – Aman applies again for a permit with Pagadian City, according to Co.

Co said he did not intend to issue them another permit, and dragged the application so as not to grant them another.

July 11, 2012 – Co replies to Aman and asked for a secondary license from SEC to approve their request.

July 27, 2012 – Co allows Aman to operate, but insisted he “technically” did not give them a business permit. Instead, he justified that since they were operating anyway, he would collect taxes from them.

Co says he only copied the Cebu document shown to him by Aman, a tax certification. He said he doesn’t know if Aman had a business permit from Cebu.

August 2012 – Co invests in Aman supposedly to grow their campaign funds for the 2013 elections. He said he initially invested 500,000 under a different name.

Also that month, Co says he showed Aman chairman Emmanuel Amalililo the third floor of the City Commercial Center, a government-owned mall in Pagadian, as a spot Amalilio could rent for Aman since the firm needed a bigger space to contain the lines and crowds that came out to invest. Co said that was the only time they had met.

September 2012 – Co says he invested up to P42-M with friends, relatives and other city hall employees by September.

Towards the end of the month, Fernando Luna left ahead of Amalilio. Co said this was when things started to change.

September 26, 2012 – Aman office shuts down

October 8, 2012 – The SEC issues a cease-and-desist order prohibiting Aman Futures from further soliciting investments from the public. It said the order was a result of a probe by its Enforcement Prosecution Department, following complaints from the public and other government agencies.

October 10, 2012 – Co says he was in Manila. He says he personally visited Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and asked her if she could issue a hold departure order to prevent Amarillo from leaving the country. He claimed that he wrote a complaint affidavit that day against Aman.

Co said he was in Manila for 4-5 days and was in the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) asking for their help to find the house of Aman.

October 12, 2012 – NBI receives a letter from Gov. Antonio Cerilles implicating Co in the scam. The letter said Co had distributed checks to investors.

Co admitted to handing out checks but again denied involvement with Aman. He said he handed out checks left in the Aman office after Luna left.

November 14, 2012 – Amalilio leaves for Sabah, Malaysia

November 16, 2012 – The Bureau if Immigration issues a lookout against Aman officials upon the orders of the DOJ

November 18, 2012 – Maria Dona Coyme, a finance manager of Aman, submits an affidavit that said Co was involved in the scam, sought investors for the group, and that he issued a temporary business permit for Aman. Coyme said the bulk of investment came in the middle of July after Co issued the temporary permit.

Co has since said the temporary business permit was only for 60 days, allowing them to return the investments but no longer to collect money.

November 21, 2012 – Co files a complaint against Aman with the NBI. Co claims he lost P5-million but denied investing any public funds.

DOJ issues a subpoena for 44 officers and members of Aman.

November 23, 2012 – Two witnesses, both investors, approach the National Bureau of Investigation with a paper trail linking Co and his wife to Aman including deposit slips to accounts under the name of the couple. They said Co set up an Aman branch in Manila.

November 24, 2012 – 5 members of Aman’s board of directors surrender to the NBI

November 26, 2012 – The NBI recommends the filing of graft and estafa charges against Co. Photos of Co with Amalilio were attached to the complaint as evidence.

November 27, 2012 – The DOJ conducts its preliminary investigation on the cases filed by complainants. Co publicly denies any involvement in the pyramid scam and asks NBI and the Department of Justice to assess the evidence against him.

November 28, 2012 – Co, his wife and 10 others are charged with syndicated estafa before the DOJ. – Rappler.com

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.