23 July 2021 – Five scammers, believed to have milked millions of pesos from their victims, were arrested in a joint entrapment operation launched by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) in Quezon City on 21 July 2021.The NBI identified the suspects as Bernie Revadenera Limpiada, 42, resident of Cainta, Rizal; Brix Marvin Jaurez Ojeda; Rogelio Fambuena Laverinto; Glory Ann Id Pillora; and Sison Nicolas Inocencio; all involved with Agriwealth Farm Venture, Inc.
Investigation showed that on 8 June 2021, Secretary Jeremiah Belgica, ARTA Director General, received a complaint from a pastor, claiming that the suspects and the company from which they came from are involved in an investment scam.
According to the complainant, Agriwealth Farm Venture, Inc. offered investment plans to the public even when it was later found that it was not registered as a corporation nor issued with a secondary license to operate as investment company by SEC. It instead used its articles of incorporation to solicit funds.
Agriwealth Farm Venture, Inc. claimed to give investors a 160-percent return in investment within 100 days. It also promised investors a daily profit ranging from 1.6 to 2.5 percent of their invested amount. In addition, the investors were told to receive a percentage of their invested amount for every direct referral or recruit.
The company led investors to believe that it owns a 20-hectare aqua farm that yields mud crabs and tiger prawns in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
The scam has yielded millions of pesos from unsuspecting victims.
As the nature of the complaint is not red tape-related, Secretary Belgica referred the complainant to the NBI. The pastor was escorted to the NBI to relay his concerns.
On 21 July 2021, Limpiada, Pillora, and Inocencio, were nabbed in a mall in Quezon City at around 4:08 p.m. after receiving the entrapment money.
Ojeda and Laverinto, who introduced themselves as the company’s Chairman/CEO and General Manager, respectively, were also collared in a subsequent raid at Agriwealth Farm Venture, Inc.’s office at around 7:20 p.m.
The arrested suspects are now under the custody of NBI and will be facing charges for violation of the SEC Code and other appropriate laws.
NBI Director Eric Distor warned the public not to engage with scammers and to coordinate with them for investigation.
“We call on the public not to patronize these investment scams, lalo na pag hindi registered with SEC,” he said in a joint press conference with ARTA on Friday.
“Come forward and operate with the NBI because this is the only way that we can hold them accountable,” he added. “This kind of modus, this is not new. Para itong virus na nagmu-mutate din, nage-evolve din.”
Secretary Belgica commended the NBI for their timely response and underscored how different types of criminality will be eliminated if government agencies and local government units will work together.
“In fighting criminality, there has to be a whole-of-government approach. Hindi pwedeng silo system tayo, kailangan talaga mabilis ang ugnayan,” the ARTA chief told the reporters.
Undersecretary Carlos Quita, Deputy Director General for Finance and Administration, also shared about ARTA’s plans to coordinate with other agencies to implement a more integrated approach in fighting red tape.
Secretary Belgica expressed hopes for a continued partnership with NBI in its campaign to eliminate fixers and other sources of red tape in the country.