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OFW Guide: In sending money home, vigilance is key


The National Bureau of Investigation-National Capital Region arrested on October 7 two persons suspected of being involved in planning a scam designed to bilk beneficiaries of thousands of pesos in remittances from abroad, even as the alleged mastermind remains at large at press time.

Arlene Galvan and Joshua Aron Estrellado, who were nabbed in two separate sting operations in Quezon City and Caloocan City, told the NBI they were receiving instructions from Jackilyn de Vera to assume fictitious names, present fake identification, and pose as beneficiaries of money remitted from various countries thru Filipino remittance companies operating worldwide and released by local pay-out firms.

De Vera, they said, started the scheme only last month while still under the employ of a remittance firm and having access to remittance transactions being coursed thru the firm and released by a pay-out agent. Galvan added that Estrellado was De Vera’s boyfriend and point man.

De Vera’s manager at the firm, who requested anonymity, said there was no computer hacking that took place in carrying out the scam, as earlier reported by another Philippine newspaper. “There was no need to hack our system because, as a remittance delivery staff, De Vera had full and authorized access to beneficiaries’ names, addresses, and pay-out amounts.”

The company official said De Vera simply sent out email notices to the pay-out agent on the change of beneficiary and instructed her accomplices to claim the money under fictitious names.

“The pay-out firm became suspicious because they noticed that De Vera was using a personal or private email address, and not the one that we issue our employees,” he added.

The remittance official described De Vera’s modus operandi: “She would email the pay-out firm on the change of beneficiary and then instruct Estrellado to find people, like Arlene Galvan, who would supposedly go to the pay-out branch and claim the money after presenting fake identification. The plan was for the money to be taken afterwards to Estrellado, who then would pay the impostor a certain percentage.”

He added that Galvan had tried to use such bogus names as Annaliza Bautista, Rogielyn Cabinian, and Caroline Quizon.

“In all, De Vera and Estrellado attempted to run off with 80,000 pesos in various remittances from kababayan in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Northridge (California, USA),” he said, adding that scams in the remittance business, as with all other sectors of the financial community all over the world, do happen once in a while as isolated instances.

“Vigilance is key and we here never let our guard down,” he said.

According to the “joint affidavit of arrest” executed by NBI Agents Emelito Santos Jr. and Joseph Martinez, together with Senior Inspectors Allan Elefante, Edgardo Kawada, Ferdinand Manuel, and Nestor Gutierrez – all operatives of NBI-National Capital Region – De Vera emailed yet again the pay-out firm and arranged for the change of a remittance beneficiary, who in this case was Arlene Galvan. Galvan would subsequently make the withdrawal of the remittance money from the San Francisco del Monte (Frisco) branch of the pay-out agent on Oct. 7.

As early as 11 a.m. on that date, the Financial Services Division of the pay-out firm sent a text blast to the managers of all its branches, warning them about Galvan.

When Galvan appeared at the Frisco branch, she went through the regular paperwork leading to the release of the money totaling Php 18,700 in marked bills. As soon as she accepted the money and signed the receipt, the branch security guard put her under citizen’s arrest and held her in custody until NBI operatives arrived and took her.

That evening, Galvan, together with NBI authorities, went to Caloocan City to keep her rendezvous with Estrellado for the handover and pay-off. In yet another sting operation, the operatives came out of hiding and arrested Estrellado as soon as they visibly ascertained that the marked bills were in his hands. — The FilAm
Tags: remittances, ofws
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