11 charged for 'bigtime' investment scam in Mindanao; Rasuman arrested

(Updated 4:46 p.m.) Eleven people, including alleged ringleader Jachob "Coco" Rasuman, have been charged in connection with a multimillion-peso pyramid investment scam in Lanao del Sur province and nearby areas in Mindanao, an official said Tuesday.

Lanao del Sur police head Senior Superintendent Romel Magsalos said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) served an arrest warrant on Rasuman in his house in Marawi City early Tuesday afternoon.

"At 2:15, no less than the Region 10 NBI director ang nagpunta at [ako ang] nag-assist sa kanya," Magsalos said in an interview on dzBB radio.

Rasuman was arrested after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed charges against him; his father, former Public Works and Highway Undersecretary Bashir Dimaampo Rasuman; and nine others with syndicated estafa for the alleged scam.

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In a resolution dated November 22, a DOJ special panel of prosecutors recommended estafa charges against Rasuman and his alleged cohorts in connection with a P120-million investment made by their supposed victim, Abuamar Sambitory, who filed the complaint with the DOJ along with 24 other people.

The complainants said Rasuman and the others, who claimed to be directors and officers of NAD Auto Opinion Corporation, enticed them to invest in their business “because of the grant of high-interest schemes and guarantee of extraordinary returns in investments."

The complainants said they were promised between 85 percent to 150 percent return of investment within two months.

The estafa case was originally filed with the Office of the City Prosecutor in Cagayan de Oro but was subsequently re-assigned to the special panel of prosecutors in Manila.

The DOJ panel said "all elements of syndicated estafa are all present... specifically that by their modus, respondents, who are closely related to each other, showed unity of design and purpose in defrauding the public."

The case was filed with the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City on Monday. It was raffled off to Cagayan de Oro Judge Bonifacio Macabaya. On the same day, arrest warrants were issued against the Rasumans and the other accused individuals.

Syndicated estafa is a non-bailable offense.

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Apart from Rasuman and his father, other charged individuals were Emma Amer Rasuman, Jeremiah "Maning" Amer Rasuman, Jamirie Amer Rasuman, Jamila Rasuman Tomawis, Jalaima Rasuman Mangarin, Jerome Amer Rasuman, Bashir A. Rasuman Jr, Amer Tomawis, and Princess Allah Tomawis Rasuman.

When asked if there were other people arrested along with Rasuman, Magsalos said there were none. "Siya (Rasuman) lang binasahan ng charge," he said.

Rasuman-Aman link?

Earlier, the DOJ probed Rasuman's investment firm in the wake of another get-rich-quick scheme, Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc., that reportedly duped 15,000 people, including local government officials in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“Related ang kanilang modus operandi pero ang Rasuman ay operating in Lanao and nearby provinces," Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in a previous press conference.

Last September, a case of syndicated estafa was filed against the Coco Rasuman Group in Cagayan de Oro for its "Ponzi scheme" which entices investors to put money in the company in exchange for huge returns in two months.

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According to Investopedia, a Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors. The Ponzi scheme generates returns for older investors by acquiring new investors.

In the beginning, the scam actually yields the promised returns to earlier investors, as long as there are more new investors. These schemes usually collapse on themselves when the new investments stop.

Investopedia also describes a pyramid scheme as an illegal investment scam based on a hierarchical setup. New recruits make up the base of the pyramid and provide the funding, or so-called returns, given to the earlier investors or recruits above them.

Special panel

A special panel formed by the DOJ earlier conducted a preliminary investigation on five estafa complaints against the Rasuman group.

The panel is separately conducting preliminary investigation on another five complaints against Aman Futures.

Another preliminary investigation has yet to be scheduled for the second batch of complaints against Aman Futures, including two separate complaints from Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel based in Pagadian City.

News about the alleged investment scams of Rasuman and Amalilio triggered fresh complaints against several more get-rich-quick schemes. These include Visioner 2020 International Traders Inc, which victimized at least 20 people from Pagadian City, and a certain Linda Lomido from Taguig City who duped mostly employees of a popular department store. — KBK/RSJ, GMA News

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