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Editing by Nathaniel Cajuday
- Three victims, alias “Miles,” “Ron,” and “Brando,” who were deceived to become cryptocurrency scammers by a false job advertisement as call center agents in Cambodia with a promised salary of $800 per month, have shared their experiences in the hands of a syndicate situated in Southeast Asia.
- According to Miles, their main recruiter is also a Filipina, Rachel Almendra Luna, who has agents in the Philippines who book and take care of the recruits’ tickets and requirements.
- The three also revealed that they only learned that they would be scammers when they were already in Cambodia. But despite not wanting to continue, they were left with no choice as their recruiters wanted them to pay back the fees that were previously given to them so they could leave the country.
- And as per Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco, they have already identified the involved immigration officer as Alma Grace David.
- Sen. Risa Hontiveros also wants Facebook to be accountable because the scamming scheme of the syndicate happens on different Facebook groups on the platform.
Two months after the plot that a Chinese mafia situated in Southeast Asia is deceiving overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and forcing them to become crypto scammers was revealed, victims finally had the chance to share their experiences.
The victims, alias “Miles,” “Ron,” and “Brando,” who were deceived to become cryptocurrency scammers by a false job advertisement as call center agents in Cambodia with a promised salary of $800 per month, shared what they went through during the meeting of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality last Wednesday, January 25.
Last November, Senator Risa Hontiveros, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, revealed the operations of a syndicate group that dupes Filipinos into believing they will be call center agents in Thailand, only to be recruited to become crypto scammers in Myanmar.
According to Ron, who left the country through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, he was introduced via Telegram video call to a Malaysian named “Meilin,” who was in Cambodia. He disclosed that “Meilin” sent him money to process his pre-departure papers.
Meanwhile, Brando suffered even worse to reach his destination. In his narration, he had a domestic flight going to Zamboanga, then rode a ferry to Jolo for 10 hours.
“After po noon, sumakay kami ng another bangka to Tawi-Tawi, 10 oras din… Kinabukasan po, bumiyahe po kami ng Tawi-Tawi to Sabah, seven hours. Pinaglakad po kami ng anim na oras sa bundok… to Kota Kinabalu… Seven hours naman papuntang fish port ng Malaysia. Then, speedboat, dalawang oras papuntang border ng Malaysia. Then airport ng Brunei. Plane from Brunei to Thailand. January 12, nakarating na kami Thailand to Cambodia,” he shared.
[“After that, we got on another boat going to Tawi-tawi, which took another 10 hours. The next day, we traveled to Sabah for 7 hours. We then walked for 6 hours in the mountains to Kota Kinabalu, then another 7 hours going to Malaysia’s fish port. From there, we took a 2-hour speedboat ride to the country’s borders. Next, we went to Brunei’s airport to get on a plane going to Thailand. By January 12, we reached Cambodia from Thailand.”]
According to Miles, their main recruiter is also a Filipina, Rachel Almendra Luna, who has agents in the Philippines who book and take care of the recruits’ tickets and requirements.
“Mabilis lamang ang proseso ng pagpapadala ng mga recruit sa Cambodia dahil may connection (ang recruiter) sa Bureau of Immigration, sa Clark International Airport. Kasabwat ng agent niya ang kaniyang asawa… (Sa airport), kapag daw nakatayo ang Immigration officer, puwede lumapit (ang aalis na recruit). Pag nakaupo, wag daw lalapit,” Miles narrated, which is also in her affidavit.
[“The process of catering recruits to Cambodia is too fast because the recruiter has connections in the Bureau of Immigration deployed in the Clark International Airport. The recruiter’s accomplice is her husband. When the recruits are already in the airport and they saw the Immigration officer standing, that is a sign that they can approach the officer to start processing the papers. If the officer is sitting down, that means that they cannot approach the officer.”]
The three also revealed that they only learned that they would be scammers when they were already in Cambodia. But despite not wanting to continue, they were left with no choice as their recruiters wanted them to pay back the fees that were previously given to them so they could leave the country.
As per their explanation, they all opted to stay as they could not also afford to shoulder the fare going back to the Philippines.
“Kailangan namin mag-post ng iba’t ibang openings sa POGO Jobs Facebook groups. Kapag hindi namin sinunod, may penalty. $100 to $300 ang penalty kapag hindi ka nakapag-recruit ng tao. Kapag hindi ka nag-post, $20 to $50. Kaya dapat may screenshots ka showing na nag-post ka. Target recruit is 3 to 5 Filipinos per month,” Miles shared, adding that some of the recruits were punished by electrocution.
[“We have to post different job openings in different POGO Jobs Facebook groups. If we fail to obey, we will be punished or charged with a penalty. We will have to pay a $100 to $300 penalty if we fail to recruit a person. If we do not post, we will pay $20 to $50. We have to give screenshots as proof that we posted. Per month, we have to recruit 3-5 Filipinos.”]
And when asked if all of the job offers on Facebook about customer support or call center agents in Cambodia are a scam, Ron stated that it is 100% confirmed.
“This is nothing less than an emerging humanitarian crisis perpetrated by the vilest of criminal syndicates. Mga mararahas na sindikato na binubusalan, tinatali at kinukuryente ang mga empleyado. Mga walang pakundangan kung manuhol,” Hontiveros said.
[“This is nothing less than an emerging humanitarian crisis perpetrated by the vilest of criminal syndicates. Violent syndicates that gag, bind, and electrocute employees, shamefully bribing other people.”]
Recently, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) intercepted and rescued six suspected victims of a cryptocurrency trafficking ring at the Clark International Airport (CRK) who were bound for Phnom Penh, Cambodia. According to Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco, they have already identified the involved immigration officer as Alma Grace David.
“As early as January 19, 2023, we already relieved her as Immigration officer and reassigned her to the admin office in the main office pending the result of the investigation by the Department of Justice,” Tansingco explained.
According to Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Undersecretary Bernard Olalia, human trafficking in the country has worsened because recruiters now use social media to dupe their victims.
“Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp, Linked In, dating apps, and other social media platforms and messaging sites are also involved here. This is where the fake recruitment of OFWs happens, and fraud against foreigners also happens on social media. These sites have been enabling flexibility and anonymity of illegal recruiters and human traffickers,” Hontiveros emphasized.
Accordingly, Olalia said that they are currently coordinating with Meta, the mother company of social media network Facebook, to address these concerns. Hontiveros also noted that Facebook “needs to be accountable for these trafficking schemes that are perpetrated on their platform.”
“Kaya kami po ay nakikipag-ugnayan sa Meta Philippines para sa FB at nagre-request po kami ng takedowns. At marami na po kaming napa-takedown na posts,” Olalia answered.
[“We are currently connecting with Meta Philippines to request post takedowns. We already took down several posts.”]
Timeline of Chinese Mafia Recruiting OFWs to be Crypto Scammers Abroad:
- November 21, 2022: Sen. Risa Hontiveros first revealed in a privileged speech that a large-scale human trafficking syndicate in the country recruits OFWs as call center agents, but later on turned them into crypto scammers. 12 OFWs were rescued by a network of local NGO communities and met by Philippine officials after crossing the border into Thailand. (Sen. Hontiveros Reveals Plot to Recruit OFWs to be Crypto Scammers Abroad)
- November 29, 2022: Hontiveros further disclosed that there are more or less 31 Filipinos who may also be victims and needs rescuing in Myanmar. (31 More Filipinos May Be Trafficking Victims in Myanmar)
- January 20, 2023: The lady senator unveiled that an alias “Miles,” one of the Filipinos trafficked to Cambodia who was able to return to the country, has reached out to her office to seek assistance, as there are other Filipinos who need rescue in Cambodia. According to Hontiveros, the new hub of human trafficking operations could be in Cambodia. (Chinese Mafia Forcing Pinoys to Do Crypto Scam Still Active)
- January 26, 2023: The Bureau of Immigration confirmed that it has recently intercepted and rescued six suspected victims of a cryptocurrency trafficking ring at the Clark International Airport. (Immigration Confirms Rescuing 6 Alleged Victims of Chinese Mafia Forcing OFWs to be Crypto Scammers)
- January 27, 2023: Three victims shared their experiences in the hands of the syndicate. They named the main recruiter as Rachel Almendra Luna, who has agents in the Philippines who book and take care of the recruits’ tickets and requirements. The Bureau of Immigration also identified the involved immigration officer as Alma Grace David. (This news)
This article is published on BitPinas: 3 OFWs Turned Into Crypto Scammers by Chinese Mafia Share Experience in Senate Hearing
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