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Probe of Francswiss pyramiding widened; celebs may be victims

July 10, 2007 6:01pm
The National Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday said that it has widened its probe of the Francswiss Investment pyramiding scam following reports that prominent people including actors and actresses, politicians, a media personality, a basketball player, and military and police officers were among its victims.

The NBI said 25 people had already filed complaints against Francswiss and 100 more also plan to sue Francswiss officers. Investors each poured in a minimum of $1,000 in Francswiss.

Senior Agent Manny Fayre of the NBI National Capital Region said the bureau is set to invite some personalities to shed light on the incident, including popular actress Claudine Barreto and her actor-husband Raymart Santiago, broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez and cager Bonnel Balingit.

But Fayre said Barreto, Santiago and Sanchez may not actually have been “investors" but were name-dropped by the group to lure other people.

“There is a possibility that Sanchez, Barretto and Santiago were not actually investors and their names are being used to lure other investors to put their money on (Francswiss). We also received information that the (Francswiss) opted to return the money to these personalities following the arrest of one of its key officials," said Fayre, adding that the company is not registered with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and has no permit from the Bureau of Internal and Revenue (BIR).

The NBI agent added that there are also police and military officials also invested in the Francswiss scheme.

NBI-NCR chief Regional Director Ruel Lasala said Francswiss is an international internet pyramiding syndicate, which has duped individuals in the Philippines alone of almost P1 billion. The group was believed to have been busted with the arrest of one of its key officials in Baguio City last July 4.

NBI Director Nestor Mantaring identified the arrested suspect as Eleazard Castillo, alias Eli, Filipino, and a native of Pug-os, Cabuyao, Ilocos Sur. He was named as Francswiss’ chief financial adviser on its website, www.francswiss.biz.net, which has reportedly been shut down.

Other suspects who remain at large are Jaime “Jimpol’ Poliquit of Davao City; Garry Espiritu of Metro Manila; alias Jomarc of Fairview, Quezon City; Edwin Sendana of Pasig City; Edward Ricalde of Province of Pampanga; and Chris Erabon of Baguio City.

Also at large is Roger Smith, American national, supposed head of Francswiss Investment in the Asia–Pacific region and Raymond Chua and Bensy Fong, both Singaporeans, who gave their office as 280 Madison Avenue, 912, 9th floor, New York, NY10016 USA.

An NBI-NCR investigation showed that it received complaints from victims Frederico Olarte, Glen Manuel Sunga and Philip Fernando.

The three complainants said they were browsing the the Internet when they read the Francswiss advertisement that a $1,000 investment would earn a daily interest of US$45.

They also read at the group’s website that the investment would earn 10 percent for recruiting other investors in called so-called “e-points" which could not be encashed but could be sold to another investor.

“What could allegedly be encashed was the daily interest through an Internet bank-to-bank transaction. It was because of this set-up that each investor must have a banking facility," the NBI-NCR report said.

The victims called up the posted cellular phone numbers on the website and one of the suspects who identified himself as certain Eleazard “Eli" Castillo invited victims for a face-to-face meeting at a coffee shop at the Metrowalk mall in Ortigas, Pasig City.

The victims met with Jaime “Jimpol" Poliquit, Chris Erabon, alias Jomarc, and Gary Espiritu who introduced themselves as financial advisers.

In a presentation with the victims, the suspects told them “that Francswiss Investment is under the umbrella of the Swiss Mutual Fund with its listed officers as Michael Mansfield as chief financial officer; Kurt Sandelman as risk management team leader, Rupert Benedict Da Vinco as investment team leader; Julia Rodriguez as international banking team leader; Hector Willen Sidberg as marketing and international affairs; Fernando Muñoz as customer service team leader."

In the Asia-Pacific region, Francswiss said it was being managed by Roger Smith of the US, Singapore nationals Raymond Chua and Bensy Fong, and Filipino officers Castillo, Poliquit, Espiritu, alias Jomarc, Sendana, Ricalde, Erabon and several others.

The victims invested $1,000 each but no receipts or acknowledgements were issued by the suspects.

Suspect Castillo only informed the victims that a confirmation detail would be posted on the Francswiss website. Olarte received a confirmation of trading account or being a registered Francswiss investor, since a confirmation detail was sent to him bearing his registration, trading account ID number and trading account name. But the two others did not receive anything and were told to wait.

Sunga and Fernando waited until they tried to refund their investments but Castillo denied receiving any investment, which prompted them to file cases against the suspects with the NBI.

Olarte, on the other hand, checked his investment portfolio at the Francswiss website every day.

But when he went to his bank and tried to encash the interest payments, his bank account did not reflect the supposed interest earned. Castillo told him that he could only withdraw his daily interests if he could recruit the minimum two investors, called his “downlines."

When Olarte said he had no time to recruit “downlines", Castillo reportedly told him he can only withdraw his daily interest if he invests another $1,000.

Olarte tried to borrow money from his relatives, who then informed him that Francswiss was a pyramiding scheme flashed in a news brief by a television network. The victim then filed charges against the suspect.

Since Castillo was demanding for the additional investment, the NBI set up an entrapment.

Castillo asked Olarte to give the additional investment to a restaurant on a downtown Baguio City where the suspect was supposed to be in a business meeting

Suspect Castillo was subsequently arrested by joint operatives of NBI and NBI –Baguio during the operation.

The suspects face syndicated estafa charges. -GMANews.TV
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