NBI agents to probe P100-M “Complan” investment scam

NEW NBI REGIONAL DIRECTOR Paterno V. Morales (4th from left) discusses vital issues with Gov. Joseph Cua (5th from left) and Provincial Administrator Lemuel Surtida (extreme right) at the Capitol last Aug. 20, 2021. PBM Robert Fernandez (2nd from left), sandwiched by Agent-In-Charge Erwin I. Marpuri and Ruben I. Balangayos Jr., listens in. PIU photo

Responding to an official request from the Sangguniang Bayan of Panganiban, two agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regional office met last week with about 20 victims of the “Complan” cryptocurrency trading scam that victimized hundreds of residents of about a hundred million pesos.

Vice Mayor Remelito Cabrera confirmed to the Tribune that NBI agent Joey Ajero and a companion talked with the victims at the Sangguniang Bayan session hall last Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

The NBI agents told them to prepare evidence against the alleged scam masterminds, Catanduanes State University (Catsu) Panganiban Campus radio broadcast operator Darius Panti and his wife Maureen Ambrosio, both residents of Sta. Ana, Panganiban.

They would be back this week to meet with the complainants again and secure the evidence needed to pursue the investigation and file the appropriate complaints.

The swift NBI action comes just days after the municipal council passed Resolution No. 33-21, authored by Councilor Arvin Atencia, on Aug. 9, urgently requesting the agency to investigate the scam.

Vice Mayor Cabrera also called up the NBI regional office just hours after Regional Director Paterno Morales departed for the mainland last week after paying a courtesy call on Governor Joseph Cua.

Possibly hundreds of teachers, government employees, self-employed persons, laborers, abaca strippers, professionals and Overseas Filipino Workers, some of them based in Manila and abroad, allegedly “invested” their hard-earned cash ranging from P1,000 to as much as P1.65 million into the couple’s attractive scheme.

A group of 141 victims led by a Manila-based lawyer, with total investments of nearly P11 million, have sent a final demand letter to Panti and Ambrosio, asking them to refund their money and promising to file charges for large-scale estafa and violation of the Securities Regulation Code. It also threatened to freeze their bank accounts and take over their assets to satisfy their debts to the victims.

However, it is claimed that the couple were no longer around to receive the letter as they had already left the island on board a new van apparently bought from their earnings from the scheme.

Before fleeing, they failed to failed to show up in a scheduled meeting with some victims who had failed to receive their payouts and were told to wait a while.

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.

The scheme, marketed on Facebook, offered to turn P10,000 to P15,000 in just three days, with 100 slots available to would-be investors.

The posts also promised to turn a P5,000 investment into P15,000, a P3,000 gamble into an P8,000 payout and a P20,000 deposit into P80,000.

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.

The schemers, including one different operator based in Virac, posted pictures of some of their investors counting their payouts in order to attract other citizens.

Soon after the news about the scam was published, the scheduled payouts began to be delayed, with worried investors haranguing Panti and Ambrosio on the return of their money and promised earnings.

The couple apparently left the island sometime before Aug. 6, 2021 through one of the two ferry crossings and traveling overland to the National Capital Region where they are in hiding.

They left their two young children in the care of Ambrosio’s relatives, a source claimed.

Another informant who had conversed with Panti in Virac alleged that the latter asked how he would be able to access his account at a local commercial bank, which he said froze said account with a balance of about P1 million.

The Tribune, however, learned that said account had been closed by Panti sometime before. It is not known whether he still has accounts in the other banks in Virac.

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