Eight “big-time” swindlers who stole more than P2-million worth of consumer goods from local dealers are now facing charges of estafa.
In a complaint filed on Friday at the Office of the City Prosecutor, suspected big-time swindlers Feliza Domingo Torralba, Merryanne Ramas Torralba, Ferrer Ramsi Torres, John Michael, Rosenda Co, Liah G. Domingo and two others were charged with estafa through the use of bouncing checks.
P/Supt. Rene Kyamko, chief of the Provincial Investigation and Detective Management Branch (PIDM) told the Chronicle that the complaint was jointly filed by the Tagbilaran City Police Station (TCPS) and a certain Jocelyn Melina Balais, a sales and marketing staff of JJED Philippines Inc., one of the swindling group’s victims.
Presently, there are 26 victims who have come out to cooperate with police investigators even as authorities believe there may be others who have not yet surfaced.
Other victims are preparing to file charges for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, or the “Bouncing Checks Law”, according to Kyamko.
The complainant, Balais, was allegedly duped into delivering more than P90,000.00 worth of hygiene products to F. Torralba General Merchandise and was paid two post-dated checks in the amount of P52,548 and P33,700.
Balais was among several local businessmen and dealers who were victimized by Torralba’s group who fled the province with various consumer goods, including 3 vehicles, appliances, computer sets, food items, agrivet supplies and food supplements.
Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 13 has forwarded to the Bohol Police Provincial Office (BPPO) some photographs of suspected swindlers in the region where the group of Torralba is believed to be in hiding.
The photographs are now being shown by police investigators to the victims in the hopes that they would be able to identify the faces of the other suspects.
With the filing of the first complaint against the suspected swindlers, police are now waiting for the issuance of arrest warrants against the suspects who are now the subject of a manhunt.
The faces of four of the suspects have been captured through footages provided by some of the victims whose establishments are equipped with CCTV cameras.
Identified through CCTV footages were Feliza Torralba, Merryanne Ramas Torralba, Ferrer Ramsi Torres and John Michael.
Estafa committed by means of the issuance of bouncing checks is a violation of paragraph 2(d) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code.
It may be recalled that the syndicate’s leader, Felisa Domingo Torralba, opened a checking account at Security Bank Tagbilaran Branch under her name.
P/Supt. Kyamko however bared that they are having difficulty getting the cooperation they need from Security Bank because its management refuses to release security CCTV footages, including the documents and identification submitted by Torralba in order to open an account and the initial transactions that she had in relation to her check issuances.
P/Supt. Kyamko said the bank has given police investigators a run-around saying that they could not divulge the documents and transaction records as it supposedly violates the Bank Secrecy Law while security footages are highly confidential.
Because of this, Kyamko has formally written the bank management that police are only interested in getting a photograph of Torralba and the documents she presented to the bank in opening her account, explaining that this would not violate the bank secrecy law as it does not pertain to the details of the account itself.
Still, the bank refused telling police that they most they could accommodate of the request was for the investigators to specify a particular date which they would be allowed to review the bank’s CCTV footage.
“It does not make any sense because, in the first place, how could we give them a particular date as we are in fact asking their assistance to at least tell us the day of Torralba’s initial transaction with the bank, or the day when she applied to open an account? That is where we are supposed to start our investigation,” Supt. Kyamko explained.
He said, if only the bank has released to them its security footages, police would have a clearer picture of the syndicate’s operation, and possibly the pictures and identities of the gang members.
Even a request made by Station dyRD for an interview with the bank’s manager was snubbed. In fact, a public relations firm from Manila had instead called up Station dyRD to turn down the interview request.
Torralba duped her victims by post-dating several checks which she issued in payment of merchandise that she and members of the group ordered from local dealers in wholesale quantities.
A day before the post-dated checks was scheduled to fall due, the group hurriedly left the province exiting through the eastern town of Jagna from where they boarded their four vehicles, fully-loaded with various stolen merchandise, aboard a Lite Shipping ro-ro vessel bound for Nasipit, Agusan del Norte.
Some 26 businessmen and dealers who fell prey to the syndicate although many others may have opted to remain silent to save themselves from the humiliation.
The list of victims includes two car dealers, a balikbayan who sold his newly refurbished cargo truck, an agri-vet supplier, general merchandisers, a pharmacy, a tire dealer, a computer dealer, cellphone, and accessories store, paint supplier, and several sales agents.
An owner of a residential unit at the Royal Palms-1 in Dauis town was also among the victims as her fully furnished house was leased by the syndicate members. When the group hurriedly left with their loot, they also took with them valuable house appliances.
Police investigation revealed that the group came to Bohol sometime in the latter part of September this year and leased a residential unit owned by one Analyn Antasuda, at Royal Palms 1 in Dauis town.
Sometime in the last week of October, as the syndicate gained the trust of her suppliers, Torralba began purchasing all sorts of products in wholesale quantities. She issued post-dated checks as payment.
It was only on the morning of October 31 that most of the suppliers realized that they have been swindled when most of them turned up at the Security Bank to encash their post-dated checks. As one supplier after another got informed by the bank’s teller that their check is unfunded, the news immediately broke out among the rest of the check holders.
More victims have sought police assistance last week bringing the number of reported victims to 26.
One of the victims is Jessie Quipit, the manager, and proprietor of Tagbilaran Tire Supply. According to Quipit, on October 23, one Merryanne Torralba who introduced herself to him as a secretary of F. Torralba General Merchandise, came to his store and ordered assorted tires that were to be delivered on October 27.
Upon delivery of the tires worth a total of P94,460, the victim was issued a post-dated check. However, when it was presented for encashment at Security Bank on October 30, the check turned out to be unfunded.
Another victim was Gerson Orevillo, branch manager of Superior Motor Corporation located at CPG North Avenue, Tagbilaran City.
According to the victim, Feliza Domingo Torralba came to his office to purchase one unit Mazda Bongo cargo truck on installment. Torralba issued a post-dated check in the amount of P50,000 to cover his downpayment and agreed to pay monthly installments of P18,167 for the remaining balance. Like the rest of the victims, the first check covering the downpayment bounced when it was tendered for encashment on October 30.
Torralba apparently timed her bulk purchases with various local dealers on October 27, which was a Friday, so that she can use her ploy of post-dating her check payments on the next business day, October 30, a Monday.
But during the ensuing weekend, Torralba and her cohorts had set their escape out of the province. The syndicate left the province early dawn Sunday.
With piles of merchandise, the syndicate also purchased three Bongo cargo trucks. One of which was the Mazda which they purchased from Orevillo. The other two cargo trucks were Kia Bongos purchased from two other victims, one of which was owned by Dionisio Borja and the other was purchased from Donvil Trading Display Center, a vehicle dealer in Barangay Taloto, this city. All three cargo trucks were also paid out of unfunded post-dated checks.
The syndicate also used another vehicle, a brand new Mitsubishi Adventure, which was purchased by way of post-dated checks from a car dealer in Mandaue City, Cebu.
All four vehicles boarded a Lite Shipping ro-ro vessel which left the Jagna Port on 10:00 a.m. Sunday and arrived at Nasipit on the same day at 5:00 p.m.