Insta-infamous: How Jeane Napoles' social media posts tipped off probers

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 01 2018 01:38 PM

MANILA - A US federal grand jury indicted Jeane Napoles, her mother, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, and 4 others for conspiring to funnel millions of dollars in Philippine public funds to the US. 

In its investigation, the US Department of Justice said approximately $20 million in discretionary funds from Philippine lawmakers were diverted to money remitters in the Philippines and then wired to Southern California bank accounts where the money was used "to purchase real estate, shares in 2 businesses, 2 Porsche Boxsters and finance the living expenses of three family members residing in the United States."

Jeane's social media posts about 5 years ago spurred an investigation by the local Bureau of Internal Revenue into her family's wealth after she posted pictures of expensive gifts from her parents.

In 2013, ABS-CBN News published photos of Jeane's Instagram posts, including a Porsche Cayenne and a Porsche Boxster, which cost about P1.8 million and P2.8 million, respectively.

Jeane also sported watches, jewelry, clothing, and shoes worth thousands of Euros in the photo set.

Her parents threw her a lavish 21st birthday party at the Beverly Hills hotel, according to videos that surfaced around that time.

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In a previous interview with ABS-CBN News, the elder Napoles confirmed the authenticity of the photos, adding that the items were given as gifts for Jeane's graduation and birthday.

The alleged brains behind the multi-million PDAF scam insisted, however, that their wealth was the the result of legitimate business, and admitted that their family co-owned a P7-million hotel near Disneyland in Los Angeles, California.

According to their then-lawyer Lorna Kapunan, the Napoles family was well-off because of their businesses abroad, and it was only right that they reward Jeane for finishing school with honors.

A month later, it was discovered that Jeane owned a unit at the Ritz Carlton Residences building in Los Angeles, which was estimated to cost from $800,000 to $9.3 million.

Neighbors described Jeane as tall and friendly, greeting fellow Filipino tenants, and revealed that she attended the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise that carried a $30,000 annual tuition.

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In September that year, several realty websites showed a listing for Jeane's condo unit. It was a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 1,500-square- feet unit priced at $1.475 million. Price per square feet was at $934.14. 
 
Documents retrieved the month after showed that it was no longer for sale.

AUDIT

In its statement, US investigators said an audit first discovered the fraud in September 2012 before it was exposed by the Philippine press in July 2013. 

"Napoles and her family members attempted to quietly liquidate the assets in the United States, secretly repatriate most of the resulting funds back to the Philippines and to other accounts in the U.S. and United Kingdom, and disburse some of the funds to Jeane Napoles, who used the money to finance her lifestyle and open a fashion business," the US Department of Justice said. 

In 2014, Jeane Napoles was indicted for an alleged total tax liability of P32.06 million, inclusive of surcharges and interests, for taxable years 2011 and 2012.

Jeane filed counter-affidavits to state that her parents, not her, owned the Ritz-Carlton unit.

She was ordered arrested in April 2015 after failing to attend her arraignment on the tax charges. The warrant was lifted the following month when she finally attended the proceedings.

She refused to enter a plea during her arraignment in 2016, and her lawyer said that as of last year, Jeane remained in the Philippines but was unemployed.