AGENTS of the Philippine National Police - Anti-Cybercrime Group on Tuesday shut down two foreign-operated business companies in Ilocos Norte used as a “front” for international online fraud and arrested 25 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals.
PNP-ACG director Chief Supt. Marni Marcos said that with the help of information provided by their Chinese counterparts, they located the suspects in a warehouse on Abra Road in Dingras, Ilocos Norte and in Marquee Hotel located at Bgy. 51-A in Nangalisan East, Laoag City, also in Ilocos Norte.
Armed with a search warrant for violation of the Anti-Cybercrime Law issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court, Marcos said they conducted the raids that led to the arrest of the 15 Chinese and 10 Taiwanese nationals and the seizure of call center equipment and facilities, including gateway switches, laptop computers, mobile phones, telephones and sound-proof telephone booths, several SIM cards and scripts on what to tell their targets abroad.
Marcos said that the suspects were believed to be part of an Asian syndicate whose modus is to call their targets from Mainland China and Taiwan and pose as prosecutors, judges and policemen.
Once they have gotten the attention of the victims, they will tell them they are the subject of ongoing government investigation, and warrants of arrest have been issued against them. The suspects will also inform their targets that they would not be arrested and the charges against them dropped if they would agree to a money wire transfer.
Marcos said the twin operations came amid an investigation they launched in connection with a letter from the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China concerning a telecom fraud operation they believed to be originating from the Philippines that has victimized Chinese nationals in Australia, United Kingdom, United States and Mainland China.
“These international syndicates, under false pretenses as staff members of the Chinese Embassy, Chinese law enforcement or even using the photograph of the China Minister of Public Security would call potential victims and tell them they are involved in crimes. They would later convince their victims to pay a certain amount of money,” the official said.
The fraudulent scheme is believed to have victimized at least 100 Chinese nationals from Mainland China over the past three months. The syndicate reportedly has amassed at least US$50 million from their victims.
“The victims would usually oblige and transfer money to ‘safe accounts’ provided by the suspects,” the PNP-ACG director said.
It was not the first time that the PNP-ACG has busted a similar Chinese-led online fraud syndicate. Since 2010, a number of these syndicates operating in the country have been busted by the PNP-ACG, all of them using the same modus.
Marcos said that they conducted undercover operations for more than two months and applied for various court warrants to identify and locate the suspects through the IP addresses and telephone numbers they use.
He said that they eventually found the two locations in Ilocos Norte, where the Chinese nationals were being coddled by a local resident.
Marcos said that operations against cybercriminals is not that easy but they remain committed in sending a message to foreign telecom fraud rings that “our country is not a haven for them.”
Cases for violation of Sections 4 (aa), 5(ii) of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and Article 315 or estafa under the Revised Penal Code will be filed against the arrested suspects.