DOJ files estafa case vs. 10 Aman Futures execs

(UPDATED 4:30 p.m.) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday filed a syndicated estafa case against 10 incorporators and employees of the controversial Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc, including owner Manuel Amalilio, who was last spotted in Malaysia. "The special DOJ panel determined that Aman Futures was organized for the purpose of engaging in ordinary trading but did not possess the authority to engage in commodity futures trading, management of funds or investment of any kind, then it solicited and received funds for such purposes," the DOJ said. The DOJ said Aman Futures used "false pretenses and fraudulent representations" to lure victims into investing money and causing damage to the complainants amounting to P46,665,069. The DOJ said the charges would be filed within the day with the regional trial court of Pagadian City. Apart from Amalilio, also recommended to be charged with syndicated estafa were Lelian Lim Gan, Wilanie Fuentes, Nazelle Rodriguez, Eduardo Lim and Lurix Lopez. The others charged were incorporators Fernando Luna, his wife Nimfa Luna, Donna Coyme, and Dharwin Wenceslao. Meanwhile, charges against Aman Futures lawyer Isagani Laluna were dismissed. "It cannot be denied that his only participation in the whole controversy is being a retained counsel and corporate secretary of Aman Futures. Apart from this, no evidence was submitted to show that he has any involvement in the operation of Aman Futures," the DOJ said. 15,000 investors Among the complainants are Leo Rey Valdez Soria, Quintin Yap, Pasanting, Dennis Ramirez Ceno, Rene Ariel Real, Haide Sacote, and Clyde Rondrique. The complainants in the case said they invested P26.48 million in the controversial firm, which was said to have duped sone 15,000 investors from Mindanao and Visayas and divested from them around P12 million. "Its promise to its would-be depositors was that their money would be either doubled after 21 days or tripled after 30 days," the DOJ said in its resolution. At first, the investors received the promised cash, but the company later started issuing 50-day post-dated checks that bounced for lack of funds, according to the Justice Department. Ponzi scheme Aman Futures is accused of defrauding investors through a so-called "Ponzi Scheme," in which the firm misrepresents itself as a company engaged in futures trading and lures investors by offering between 20 to 80 percent interest within eight to 20 days. The National of Bureau Investigation discovered that Aman Futures began operating in the last week of February last year and used the name Aman Futures Trading, identifying itself as a client of Malaysia-based future trading company Okachi (Malaysia) SDN BHD.

In June last year, Aman Futures registered with the Securties and Exchange Commission, but was not authorized to solicit investments from the public, based on its articles of incorporation. Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co, who also earlier filed a complaint against the investment firm, said he formed a team last June to inspect the operations of Aman Futures, and that the team found out that Aman Futures operated under a local business permit to engage in a general merchandise business. "The inspection team recommended for the cancellation of local business permit issued on April 23, 2012. Thus, I ordered its cancellation on June 18, 2012," he said. Co said that despite the cancellation of the local business permit, Aman Futures continued to operate "with the overwhelming patronage of the general public." He said he then invited Aman Futures head operator Fernando Luna for a meeting, in which Co gave Luna an ultimatum to submit to the local government the necessary documents "to legalize Aman's operation." Co also said he could not immediately order a stoppage of Aman Futures operations because the firm operated privately at a rented residential house and that no actual exchange of money happened since transactions were made through bank deposits. He said he wrote the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Pagadian City to conduct an inquiry on the possible grant of authority for him to close down a business even if it is conducted in a private residence. His efforts were futile as no one allegedly complained against the operation of Aman at the time. Co said Luna eventually submitted to him several documents to prove the legality of their firm but what it needed to secure was a secondary permit. It was at this point, while Aman Futures was trying to secure a secondary permit, that Co "if only to protect the investing public of their considerable investments, during the interim of the submission of the required secondary permit, the Permits and Licensing Division recommended for the issuance of a temporary permit valid only for 60 days." Co said that in July, Aman Futures owner Amalilio visited him in his office at the city hall and briefed him about the investment firm. Amalilio also presented a certificate of incorporation from the Securities and Exchange Commission to show it was a duly registered firm. The mayor admitted to having invested also in the firm but the checks later issued to him by Aman Futures eventually bounced for insufficiency of funds. Rasuman The fresh charges against Amalilio and other Aman Futures executives came two months after the DOJ slapped estafa charges against a similar investment firm, operated by ringleader Jachob "Coco" Rasuman. 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.

In a resolution dated November 22, a DOJ special panel of prosecutors recommended estafa charges against Rasuman and his alleged cohorts for 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.