A radio announcer at the Catanduanes State University’s Panganiban campus and his wife have disappeared after being hounded by more than a hundred investors in an alleged crypto currency trading scam.
Last Aug. 5, 2021, Atty. Irwin L. Peña, representing 141 “helpless” clients who invested money in the investment scheme, sent a letter to Darius Panti and his wife Maureen Ambrosio on their “final demand for refund/payment” of their investments totaling more than P10.8 million.
The list of victims have reportedly reached more than 200 as of presstime.
Majority of the victims are teachers, government employees, self-employed persons, laborers, abaca strippers, professionals and Overseas Filipino Workers, who “invested” their hard-earned cash ranging from P1,000 to as much as P1.65 million.
Those who were listed to have invested large amounts are apparently “downlines” or agents of the couple.
The lawyer himself was among the victims as he gave Panti P220,000 as investment while his wife, mother, father and sister invested a total of P480,000 in the same scheme.
The demand letter told the alleged scammers that criminal charges for large-scale estafa as well as violation of the Securities Regulation Code, would be filed against them, along with legal action to freeze their bank accounts and takeover of their properties to satisfy their debts, and other remedies under the law.
“This is not a threat but a promise that we will push through if you fail to respond to us and pay your debts,” said the letter signed by Atty. Peña. “Treat this as our last and final demand and give this your most preferential attention.”
However, it was not clear who received the demand letter as Panti and his wife, who have three young children, are claimed to have fled from Panganiban and traveled to the mainland by ferry last week.
The alleged scammer, who is a radio broadcast operator and alternate technician at CatSU Panganiban campus’ Radyo Kaamigo, failed to show up in a scheduled meeting last week with some victims who were asking for a refund of their investments.
It may be recalled that in its June 9, 2021 issue, the Tribune broke the story on the investment scheme on Facebook that hooked numerous public school teachers, government employees and even students.
An FB post on May 15, 2021 which offered to turn P10,000 to P15,000 by May 24, with 100 slots available.
The same post claimed that a P5,000 investment would become P15,000 by June 6 for 100 slots while a P3,000 gamble would pay out P8,000 by July 8 for 200 slots.
All slots would have to be filled, the post said, meaning the handler of the funds would have at his or her disposal a total of P2.1 million.
It likewise stated that for the regular investment, P1,000 would turn to P5,000 by October 22 while P20,000 will pay out P80,000 on August 15, with 30 slots available.
The scheme spread rapidly in the northern towns from Panganiban to Caramoran, especially after it was learned that one school official reportedly received a payout of P800,000 while another teacher was able to buy a motorcycle from her gains.
One teacher from Panganiban confirmed to the Tribune that she had invested P2,000 in the FB “complan” as she was encouraged by reports of big payouts received by those who had invested earlier.
The report was confirmed by a school official who said that many teachers have already joined the scheme and he nearly became convinced to invest after learning of the payouts.
Every day there is new “complan,” they were told, with different values for the slots earning proportionate income depending on results of the trading involved and whether the investment is short-term or long-term.
It was also alleged that the ones running the investment scheme claimed that they are also investors with their own “downlines” and that an unidentified broker has control of the trading.
At the time, there were at least two individuals offering the attractive but deceiving scheme on Facebook: Panti, who is a native of Virac, and another resident of Virac.
The investment scheme’s collapse apparently began on or about the time the Tribune made the expose, when some investors failed to receive the promised money during the payout schedule.
“Paki linaw kung sino yang complan sa payo…unang una sinabi nanamin na kami lang ang agent n nagpaparide sa cryptocurrency trading ditto..at naginform na kami na hindi namin agent yang binigyan nyo ng investment nyo…Kaya kung naniwala kayo sa kanila..problema nyo na yan at hindi namin..,” Panti said in a June 7 post.
The series of posts also showed Panti had numerous “downlines” who claimed no one was complaining because they were doing the payouts.
“..kaya panawagan po sa mga investor pumili po kayo ng LEGIT na di ma scam ang pera niyo…,” said one agent.
Another post also indicated that as early as April 13, the release of the payouts began to be delayed by at least nine days for those waiting for the return of their investments.
A March 22 post showed Panti informing those who invested in “CTrade” that their payout would be only 50% “dahil po nagbaba ang ROI natin yung March 16-31, 2021.”
The payouts were released through bank accounts, GCash and PayMaya accounts.
Panti’s Face Book account was deactivated sometime last week while that of the other investment operator in Virac is still active but the posts regarding the “Complan” investments were deleted a few days after the Tribune story appeared on June 9.
Several of the victims have reportedly executed affidavit detailing their experience and have gone to the police in Virac but came home unsatisfied.
A barangay chairman in Panganiban town posted a “wanted” notice on the couple in the barangay’s FB page, promising a P100,000 reward to anyone who could provide information on the Panti couple’s whereabouts.
Viga police chief Capt. Carlos Gales and Panganiban police chief Lt. Noe Balantes both told Tribune reporter Arvin Anthony Tabuzo that they cannot act on the alleged scam, despite information having reached their units, as they have yet to receive any official complaint.
Lt. Balantes, however, confirmed that some investors from Bagamanoc and Viga came to their station and recorded their complaints on the police blotter.
However, they were advised to go to their respective police stations as the transactions were apparently made with the Panti couple’s “downlines” or agents in the two towns.
About 20 “downlines” in Panganiban have filed complaints against the duo before the police, which denied the Tribune’s request to look at the blotter entries.
Panganiban Mayor Cesar Robles said he cannot act on the issue as it is a private matter and there is no complaint.
He stated that he would ask the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate once a formal complaint is filed by the victims.
It is believed that the initial list of scam victims is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.