As I See It

Pyramid scam victims succumbed to greed


The scam that defrauded 15,000 investors of P12 billion of their hard-earned money is caused by GREED—the greed of the officers of Aman Futures, the company behind the scam, and the greed of the victimized investors.

For decades pyramid scams like this have been exposed and some of the perpetrators sent to jail, but greedy investors still fall for them. People never learn.

The scam works through the offer of huge returns on investments. In the case of Aman Futures, it offered P25,000 interest for every P100,000 investment in just eight days. Even if you own a gold mine, you can’t earn at that huge rate. So investors, their greed overcoming their common sense, invest their savings—and lose these in the end.

At first, the scammers pay their investors with money from new investments. This entices the investors and their friends who hear of it to put in more money. Bigger investment, bigger returns. Ha-ha, that’s what they thought.

As new investments peter out, the checks that the scammers pay to their investors begin to bounce. That’s the only time that the investors begin to wake up. They panic and go after the scammers. But it is too late. By then the scammers, and their loot, have disappeared.

Moral of the story: If an investment offer is too good to be true, don’t bite it. There must be something wrong with it.

Remember, the higher the return, the higher the risk. So don’t be greedy. Be content with modest earnings on your investments.

* * *

What do you think of this case? A husband files a legal separation case against his wife. One of the lawyers defending the wife turns out to be the business partner of the husband of the judge handling the legal separation case. Shouldn’t the judge/wife inhibit herself from trying the case? Wouldn’t her impartiality be affected and her decision put under a cloud of doubt?

This is what has happened to the legal separation case filed by Susana Madrigal-Bayot against former Philippine Ambassador Francisco “Paqui” Ortigas. The judge trying the case is Judge Marie Picardal-Tecson of Makati RTC Branch 144. It so happens that one of the lawyers appearing for Susana, Thea Daep, is the business partner in several real estate firms of Constantine “Cons” Tecson, the husband of Judge Tecson. The General Information Sheets (GIS) filed by the realty companies with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed that Cons Tecson and Thea Daep are stockholders and officers of Prestige Asia Co. Inc. and Lakefront Realty Inc. Cons Tecson is the chair and president of Prestige Asia while Daep is the treasurer. At Lakefront Realty, Daep is the chair-president while Cons Tecson is listed as one of its officers.

With such an arrangement, Ortigas had no recourse but to file a motion for inhibition against Judge Tecson. There is clearly a conflict of interest here.

* * *

Ortigas faces another battle, this time involving Susana’s relative, Vicente M. Bayot, and Ortigas’ company Suzy Q. Corp. (SQC).

In earlier days, Susana gifted Ortigas with a McDonnel Douglas helicopter, but it was registered in the name of SQC. Later, it was made to appear that the SQC board of directors authorized its sale to Vicente Bayot, with Susana as the alleged representative of SQC. A Union Bank check for P20 million was supposedly deposited as payment by Bayot to SQC’s account at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).

Ortigas claims that the helicopter sale was without the consent of SQC. The purported purchase price of P20 million was also not remitted to SQC.

Ortigas also claims that SQC has not authorized the opening of any bank account with RCBC, and that he is not aware of any board meeting that authorized the opening of such an account.

He has sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the RCBC account registered in SQC’s name.

To make matters worse, the helicopter was registered at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and that the helicopter is no longer owned by Vicente Bayot but sold to a Swedish company. The sale and transfer of ownership were recognized and facilitated by CAAP. The helicopter’s registration has an annotation of  lis  pendens, meaning it is under court litigation.

Because of all these, Ortigas filed an estafa case against his wife and her relatives.

* * *

A few days ago, the newspapers reported that police operatives had raided the outlets of a video store named DataBlitz and confiscated P2.6 million worth of dubious software NBA2K13 video products.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) made the raids upon the complaint of X-Play, which claims to be the exclusive distributor of NBA gaming titles in the Philippines. X-Play claimed that its intellectual property rights were violated by other video stores selling the contested software.

“The action of DataBlitz was not only prejudicial to X-Play but also to other smaller retailers and game stores. While we seek to protect our rights, we also want to help protect the industry from smugglers and other illegal operators,” X-Play officials said.

X-Play has filed an “unfair competition” complaint against DataBlitz. The court issued 11 search warrants against DataBlitz outlets in Metro Manila.

X-Play claims that several meetings were held with DataBlitz president Winston Lim and his lieutenants with a view to making the latter become X-Play’s partner for NBA2K13.

“Key DataBlitz executives Sandra Lu and Orpha Oambas even participated in X-Play’s distributor conferences and got all the marketing and distribution plans of the company,” X-Play executives said.

Apparently, the negotiations fell through and DataBlitz decided to go it alone, unmindful of the consequences.

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Tags: aman futures , column , greed , neal h. cruz , pyramid scam

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