By Jun Ledesma

Beware of Bitcoin scam

AMIDST the global Covid-19 pandemic unscrupulous individuals and organizations are feeding on the gullibility of people. This after hundreds of thousands were victimized by Ponzi scammers. The racket was hatched in Bislig, Surigao but when it was heading into trouble, the brain behind the scam surreptitiously moved south to General Santos City. Joel Apolinario, an alleged pastor part-timing as a radio announcer, improved on his strategy while letting the heat simmer down and then relaunched his Kapa Community Ministry International. This time he established his base in Tagum City in Davao del Norte and drafted a phalanx of radio commentators to promote his get-rich-quick investment scheme.

Davao del Norte was a fertile spawning ground for Kapa. Not a few people made a lot of money peddling their votes in the just concluded elections then. As with any Ponzi racket where the early bird catches the early worm, words got around very quickly, with the big help of radio, about how a simple push cart laborer and other lowly wage earner hit the jackpot on Kapa.

Before President Rodrigo Duterte got wind of the shady Kapa operations following the warning of the Securities & Exchange Corporation and the Department of Finance, an estimated 5-million people had placed their money on Kapa. By then, in Tagum City alone, no less than five clones of Kapa surfaced. When finally Duterte ordered the closure of Kapa and its variants in the special segment of Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, similar Ponzi investment schemes operated with impunity in General Santos City and South Cotabato.

The fallout was incalculable. Some victims had to mortgage their properties to cash in on Kapa big-time payout, retirees withdrew their deposits and made their bets, government employees applied for loans from GSIS, and invested on Kapa and other clones.

When finally summons and arrest orders against people behind the racket, angry and despondent investors stormed and looted the office of the investment scam operators taking with them anything they can lay their hands on. A number of characters who were managing and soliciting investors were mysteriously murdered. Government operatives were able to retrieve a huge sum of cash and properties and other assets in the name of Apolinario couple. As I write this though, I have yet to know what happened to Joel Apolinario.

That was Kapa. It used the Ponzi scheme to prey on the poor.

This time a new and more opiating get-rich-quick investment placement is out and excessively brazen in luring would-be victims to its trap. People behind the scam use names of Finance, Treasury officials to promote what Sec. Sonny Dominguez describes as “a fake cryptocurrency auto-trading platform called Bitcoin Revolution.”

I touched base with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez the other day after seeing his picture of Facebook alongside Vic Sotto with an accompanying narrative that alleged he was interviewed by the comedian on “Eat Bulaga” and where he was quoted as saying that he made a lot of money on his investments on cryptocurrency. Secretary Dominguez sent me a brief that bared that similar investment ploys using the names of prominent Finance and Treasury officials in other countries are also being used in an attempt to dupe the public into falling for the scam.

“We warn those behind these unscrupulous and unauthorized investment schemes that the government is monitoring the public space for such schemes, and will take appropriate legal and regulatory action,” the DOF said in a statement.

The DOF advisory urged the public “to report this and other similarly suspicious investment schemes to the Enforcement and Investor Protection Department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), with telephone number (02) 8818-5704.

This is not the first time that the Finance Department came out with a warning. On May 19, the DOF had warned the public about the proliferation of fake news and malicious misinformation alleging that the Philippines is creating “a platform for the citizens of the Philippines to start generating income with cryptocurrency.”

Those behind the fake news even have the gall to say that the government has created a platform called “Bitcoin Lifestyle” and that President Duterte “is urging all citizens of the Philippines to learn about Bitcoin Lifestyle quickly to get involved.”

It’s all prevaricated story and opiate-coated propaganda. But, like the more than 5-million victims of Kapa, it is not farfetched that this so-called Bitcoin Revolution could victimize a gullible few who want to get rich quick without the sweat.



About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.