More than 100 foreigners linked to telecom fraud nabbed in multiple raids

Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 13 2018 04:05 PM | Updated as of Jan 13 2018 05:47 PM

MANILA - Authorities on Saturday morning arrested over a hundred suspects from China and Taiwan allegedly involved in fraudulent telecommunications operations.

The Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) and the Bureau of Immigration took custody of 153 foreigners in raids in the villages of Nagtupacan and Bayubay Sur in San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, and in Las Piñas City in Metro Manila.

The PNP said Chinese police reached out to them in November 2017 when the latter monitored some 100 internet protocol addresses in China coming from the Philippines. 

The alleged telecom fraudsters operating in the Philippines supposedly pretended to be police officers, prosecutors and judges to victims in China, some of which are big company owners.

PNP-ACG spokesperson Senior Insp. Artemio Cinco Jr. said the victims were told that they had cases involving their phone numbers or bank accounts that needed to be investigated. 

The suspects then demanded payment of up to $1.2 million from the victims, which they then asked to be transferred to a safe account.

"Sinasabihan na sila ay may kasong iniimbestigahan na involved ang kanilang cellphone number o na-involve ang kanilang bank account, so para matulungan sila, kailangan nilang mag-open ng isang bank account, which is 'yung sinasabi ng mga suspects natin dito ay mga safe account," Cinco explained.

"And then kapag nagawa na nila na i-transfer, akala nila ay sa kanilang account pa rin pero na-transfer na sa account ng mga suspects natin. Hindi na nila ito makukuha," he added.

The alleged fraudsters were rounded up in their bunkhouses in the middle of sleep.

Authorities discovered a number of improvised soundproof telephone cubicles in a facility in Nagtupacan village. But no phones and computers were retrieved.

In another house, suspects managed to burn a portion of their list of victims based in China. 

A total of 136 foreigners were arrested in 5 houses in Ilocos Sur while 17 Chinese nationals and one Filipino were arrested in another raid in an exclusive subdivision in Las Piñas.

During the operation, authorities found the houses covered with linoleum and foam for soundproofing. Retrieved were 9 cellphones, 5 laptops, 3 tablets, a printer, 5 router modems, 20 voice-over internet protocol devices, 30 landline phones, and 4 cameras.

Around 100 Chinese business owners fall victim daily to the operation, authorities said.

Immigration officials said the arrested foreigners entered the Philippines using a tourist visa and have no working permits. 

It is yet to be known whether the suspects will be deported to China before facing cases or whether they will face trial here in the Philippines.