Friday, October 28, 2005

Anatomy of a swindle

Earlier this week, I got a story from a source in the Department of Trade and Industry regarding a swindle operation that targetted a local resident of Dumaguete. I posted an abridged version of the story in my blog, and a few days later, the victim sent in a more complete version with details.

When you read about a swindle affair, you think it never happens to you. But for one resident of Dumaguete, it did. And this is how it happened, as recounted by the victim.

"We had been planning to sell our house and lot for some time and had advertised so on the Internet and on our front gate. Two weeks ago, a Mr. Jimenez introduced himself to us indicating his interest.

"When Mr. Jimenez said our property was ideal for his brother-in-law, a sheik from Dubai. He said the sheik would come with his trustee and engineer to look over the place.

"They came on a Sunday, the sheik in full Arab dress, cutting an impressive figure. He was around 45 years old, very tall and very handsome. He was softspoken and dignified in manner. He said he liked our place.

"The trustee, a Danny Liwag, in the course of their conversation introduced their business. They said they were making plastified lining for damaged pipes. They had a factory in Manila. The Arab boss had many investments and he wanted to invest in Dumaguete. In fact, they were discussing a project on low-cost housing in the city. They needed a place for their office and for their boss to stay when he visited.

"We agreed to the terms of sale. They were to come back with their lawyer and the Filipina wife after a week to sign the papers. They said they wanted to move in by December 15 and spend their Christmas here.

"Liwag then proceeded to share with us that their factory in Manila had a hard time with a supply of raw material, tricresyl phosphate, a plasticiser. The factory of the Chinese supplier of the SEAHORSE brand had burned down, he said, and they heard that Malaysians had bought all the stock. He asked if I would I know who could supply this? The price per box was P24,000. On top of that, they would give me a broker fee of P1,000.

"It just so happened that I ws previously in touch with Ruel Bulatao, a trader. He would be coming the day after. I promised that I would ask him. Previously, Bulatao, had also been looking for a lot for his friend, a Filipino trader married to a Malaysian woman.

"Bulatao came the following day with a Ronald Villeza. Villeza was interested in the place. His father-in-law, a Malaysian would finance the lot. And what do you know? They knew where to get the SEAHORSE plasticiser. They came back and brought a sample right away. It was for P20,000.

"I suggested bringing the two parties together so they could deal directly with each other, but Villeza said did not want that since he did not know the other party. I later called Liwag and he was so pleased and thankful I found him a supplier. He bought the sample right away. I earned P5000 for that.

"He said he needed 1000 pieces so as to have a year's supply. That was P5-M profit for me! I felt like being caught in a whirlwind. First, the sale of our property for a good price, and now a chance to earn so much money with being broker. What was the risk? None!

"The trader came on a Wednseday morning without notice. He brought 250 boxes of stock in 50 carton boxes. He said he had gone all the way to Iloilo to get it from other suppliers. Two cartons were from other suppliers, the rest were his. He asked if I had the payment already, especially for the two boxes he had gotten from the other supplier. He wanted P2-M right that day.

"I said, 'You did not inform us you were coming! How could you expect to be paid right away?' I then called Liwag who said his boss the Arab was in Coron island and could not be reached. He said he would arrange that the payment by Friday. They would pay 2% on top of the price for the suppliers to hold it. He even came to inspect the stock.

"Villeza played his role of trader well. He looked liked the tired supplier who went all day and night to get the stock to supply for the customer. He said had to put the money together that day, at least P500K.

"I did not want to lose the deal. I had succumbed to some kind of avarice. He asked me what I could put together myself. Somehow, I felt some kind of responsibility having put myself in the middle of the transaction. That day I grudgingly put together almost half of that amount and gave it to the trader. All that time time, I was sure that Liwag and his Arab boss would be there by Friday.

"The trader left me a carton of 50 boxes as security. After I had paid out the money, I was still in contact by cellphone with Liwag. He kept assuring me that his boss was coming over. Little did I know that he had left his hotel that very day.

"At no point did I suspect a plot between these 2 parties. By Friday, nobody came with the money. Liwag said they were delayed in Manila, using a rally as an excuse. It was only by Monday, when the parties who had said they would come to sign for our property deal did not arrive, that I realized that I had been swindled."

"I am a respected citizen of this city. I mean what I say. I also expect this from people who deal with me. But this time I was taken in by the novelty, the promises, and the chance to earn a staggering amount of money in so short a time. I write this as I experienced it.

"The names here are the names that were told to me but may be fictitious names by this syndicate. They probably different scenarios. I urge all citizens of the community to take care."