MANILA - Charges for the non-bailable offense of syndicated estafa were filed Monday morning before the Iligan City trial court against Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co and several others, including Aman Futures founder Manuel Amalilio, in connection with the embattled firm's pyramiding scam.
This, after the Department of Justice (DOJ) found probable cause against Co, Amalilio, Amalilio's wife Abigail Pendulas, and other Aman Futures executives Fernando Luna, Lelian Lim Gan, Eduard Lim, Wilanie Fuentes, Naezelle Rodriguez, and Lurix Lopex for violations of Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code, in relation to Presidential Decree No. 16-89 on syndicated estafa.
The case stems from the complaint of alleged Aman Futures investor -Julius Labunog - who claims that his group was duped by respondents for a combined amount of P29.63 million.
The DOJ panel, composed of assistant state prosecutors Mary Jane Sytat and Amanda Felipe, ruled that respondents' "defraudation" resulted in the misappropriation of funds solicited by Aman Futures from the general public.
"[T]he defraudation resulted in the misappropriation of funds solicited by Aman Futures Group Phils., Inc. from the general public, including herein complainants," the resolution reads.
"[T]he positive assertion of complainant cannot overcome mere denial by respondent Co in light of the damage caused by the Aman Futures group," it adds.
The panel said that respondents were fully aware that Aman Futures was unable to secure the proper authorization from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to engage in commodity futures trading, management of funds, or investments of any other kind.
As for Mayor Co, the DOJ ruled that his act of entering into an agreement with Aman Futures to tax each investment at 4% was merely intended to make it appear that the firm's transactions were legitimate and that Aman Futures was engaged in legitimate business.
"Co and Aman Futures Trading entered into an agreement whereby each investment in Aman will be taxed by the City of Pagadian at 4% making it appear to the public that Aman was a legitimate business," the DOJ resolution says.
The DOJ also noted that Co awarded Aman Futures with a temporary business permit even before the firm submitted all the documentary requirements needed by the local government.
The DOJ also ruled that Aman Futures, in fact, never completed the submission of all documents it had promised to submit, including the secondary license it never obtained from the SEC.
The DOJ said that because of the acts of Mayor Co, investors relied on his representations on behalf of Aman Futures and led them to believe that the firm's business was legitimate.
Since he is the mayor of the city, the investors were led to believe that the firm's operations were legitimate, when they were, in fact, illegal and unlawful.
This is the first case resolved at the DOJ involving Mayor Co. Other complaints remain pending against him and his wife, Priscilla.