Unsuspecting local businessmen have fallen prey to a big-time swindling syndicate who have carted away more than a P2-million worth of assorted merchandise and at least two vehicles.
The suspected swindlers, with reportedly around 5 to 10 members, is led by one Felisa Domingo Torralba and believed to be a part of a bigger crime syndicate that operates out of Mindanao, according to Jorami Locada, one of the victims who learned Monday noon that the check issued to him bounced at the local branch of Security Bank.
At least two businessmen who have fallen prey to the suspected swindlers have sought the assistance of Station dyRD’s Inyong Alagad on Monday morning barely hours after having uncovered they were tricked into delivering wholesale quantities of their merchandise on credit to Torralba’s group.
Torralba and her cohorts have been renting a residential unit in the plush Royal Palms 1 in Dauis town.
The furnished residential unit was owned by Analyn Antasuda who discovered on Sunday that her tenants have left in a hurry carting away some of her valuable home appliances including a TV set and a gas stove and oven.
Upon hearing of the radio report of DYRD’s Inyong Alagad anchormen Chito Visarra and Bong Bullecer, elements of the Provincial Intelligence Branch (PIB) in Camp Dagohoy went to the subdivision mid-morning yesterday and found at the Royal Palms 1 residence some of the merchandise items that were left by the group including some partly burned documents which may have been intentionally set on fire by the group in an apparent effort to leave no paper trail behind.
Lucada, one of the victims recounted to Inyong Alagad listeners how Torralba and her cohorts have swindled him and other innocent businessmen. He was issued a bouncing check amounting to more than P50,000. At the time he was at the bank, there were other “victims” wanting to encash their checks only to know there was no sufficient funds in the issuing account.
Torralba, allegedly about 29-years old, is assisted by elderly women, and some men who posed as a general merchandiser that is supplying stores in the towns of Bohol. The group had actually opened an outlet in Barangay Manga, this city, right across the Manga Public Market, according to the victim.
“Any doubts on the legitimacy of Torralba and her merchandising business would have been allayed by the existence of the store outlet. Besides, Torralba was able to present to him her business documents, such as Mayor’s Permit, BIR and DTI registration, and even an FDA accreditation,” the victim bared.
The group’s modus operandi is to initially purchase from suppliers small quantities of stocks and pays by issuing checks in the amount of P1,000.00 to as much as P3,000.00. As they gain the trust of the supplier, the group would gradually order larger quantities, still paying in checks.
The victims did not encounter any problems with the encashment of the check payments which made them trust Torralba and her agents, he said.
At some point, Torralba started ordering stocks in bulk. Since the suppliers have already been used to Torralba’s mode of payment through checks, they agreed to the arrangement as the previous checks have all turned out to be funded upon encashment.
According to one of the victims, sometime on Sunday, he was alerted by one of his friends who found out through Facebook that he had been dealing with Torralba. The friend warned him of Torralba’s modus.
It was only last Monday that the victim got his confirmation that he had been swindled when he lined up at Security Bank to encash the check of Torralba in the amount of P56,000.00. The bank cashier told him that since the first banking hours, there have been others whose checks issued by Torralba which also turned out to be unfunded.
Several other victims who also turned up at the bank Monday morning shared similar experiences with Torralba. One victim, a drug distributor had agreed to deliver stocks to Torralba worth P200,000.00; another food supplement distributor sold P30,000.00 worth of stocks, and another company also sold merchandise worth P75,000.00 – all of them made their bulk deliveries last Friday and were consequently issued checks.
TRUCKLOADS OF MERCHANDISE
Initial police investigation reveal that Torralba’s group had been planning to make their big haul of various merchandise and at then flee the province leaving their unsuspecting victims with unfunded checks.
A further check made by Inyong Alagad yesterday revealed that Torralba have left their leased residential unit at Royal Palms 1 at around 1:50 in the morning based on the time logs of the subdivision’s security guard.
Torralba and company were onboard four vehicles loaded with their various merchandise items – from food items, food supplements, drugs, paints, tires and even poultry feeds.
Reports gathered by the Chronicle bared that Torralba and her cohorts were also able to swindle two car dealers early last week and have purchased two “bongo” cargo trucks, a Kia and a Mazda, also issuing checks as downpayment.
One of the vehicle dealers was able to track down his vehicle through the help of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG), the LTO and other PNP units.
According to the victim, who parted with his newly-reconditioned Kia “bongo” cargo truck last Saturday after he was paid by Torralba a check worth P300,000.00, Torralba and her cohorts fled the province through Jagna Port aboard a Lite Shipping vessel for Cagayan de Oro early on Sunday.
“GET AWAY” VEHICLES
Further investigation however reveal that the group were headed to Nasipit, Agusan del Norte with all their merchandise loaded in their four “get away vehicles”.
Police are currently in a nationwide pursuit of the alleged bigtime swindlers as Station dyRD yesterday sought the assistance of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco who immediately asked for the plate numbers of the group’s “get away” vehicles.
Evasco then relayed the plate numbers to PNP Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa who has immediately placed the vehicle plate numbers in the PNP’s alarm sheet.
Meanwhile, local police units are also coordinating in the investigations of other victims to provide them with further leads on the whereabouts of the suspected swindlers.
The owner of the Royal Palms residential unit that was leased by Torralba’s group also vowed during an interview over InyongAlagad yesterday that she is willing to cooperate with police investigators.
The victims have identified Torralba through the postal identification card and the business registration documents which she presented to them as well as the account name appearing on the Security Bank checks that were issued to them.