Korean trio charged; 11 vans found-A A +A
Saturday, February 23, 2013
THREE Korean nationals will face trial in court after the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office charged them for allegedly stealing a van.
Also yesterday, three employees of a car surplus shop owned by one of the Korean suspects promised to cooperate with the police, but they will also be investigated.
As of yesterday, police recovered 11 stolen vans in separate operations for the last two days in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay. Only one remains missing.
Prosecutor Liceria Lofranco-Rabillas found enough evidence to indict Kim Hyung Hwan, 33, Wonseok Lee, 32, and Janghyun Lee, 34, with carnapping.
A licensed Filipino nurse, who was arrested on Tuesday, has agreed to testify, said Chief Insp. George Ylanan, head of the Regional Special Operations Group of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7.
The Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO)-City Intelligence Branch (CIB) arrested the three Koreans separately last Wednesday afternoon.
Their case was resolved quickly after they opted not to avail themselves of their right to a preliminary investigation.
One of the employees who went to the police said that Kim had ordered him to replace the engines of two Starex vans earlier this year and to hide the original engine blocks.
Lawyer Bienvenido Baring Jr. said his clients posted P180,000 each as bail yesterday afternoon.
After that, Regional Trial Court Branch 57 Judge Enriquita Belarmino signed the release order.
Baring, in an interview with reporters, questioned the filing of his clients’ case. He said the carnapping complaint should have been filed by the police before the prosecutor’s office in Mandaue City, not Cebu City.
“The case can be dismissed based on improper venue,” he said.
The police said they had recovered from the accused a silver-gray Hyundai Starex van (JEH-875), which belongs to Francisco Garciano Perater Jr. of Barangay Parian, Cebu City.
In his affidavit, Perater said he had parked his vehicle in front of his house last Feb. 3.
The next day, he went out to clean the vehicle, which he bought from a Korean dealer in Cagayan de Oro City last year.
But he was surprised to find his parking space empty. He reported the incident to the Parian Police Station.
Last Wednesday, he went to the MCPO after he heard news that the police recovered eight Starex vans.
“Upon arrival, I was guided by one of the policemen to the location of the cars and there I positively identified my car,” said Perater.
Before the Koreans were arrested, the police said in a joint affidavit that they saw them disembark from a Starex van, which had no license plate, parked in Barangay Casuntingan, Mandaue City.
The vehicle was later towed and impounded in the Mandaue City Sports Complex. The Land Transportation Office verified that Perater was the real owner.
During their search, the police discovered two license plates (YEY-193 and JEH-875) belonging to other stolen vans.
The police arrested Hwan, a car dealer, in his display center in Barangay Cabancalan around 3:35 p.m. Twenty-five minutes later, the Lees were caught.
Meanwhile, three employees—Roldan Alesna, 30, Michael Prado, 22, and Tommy Barcelo, 38—went to the Mandaue City police to execute affidavits.
“There is a big possibility that we can use their statements against the Korean suspects,” said Insp. Michael Anthony Bastes, chief of the MCPO Investigation and Detection Management Branch (IDMB).
But Bastes said that Alesna, Prado and Barcelo, all of whom denied any participation in the crimes, will be investigated.
Alesna, the manager of Suwon Jonghap in Mandaue City, said he noticed Hyundai Starex vans in their shop and warehouse since January.
But he was not aware these were stolen.
Alesna said he did not ask where the vehicles came from as he only followed the instructions of his boss, Kim Kyung Hwan.
He said Kim instructed him to replace the engines of the two Starex vans kept in the shop and to dismantle and bury the original engines.
“Nagduda mi. Pero wala mi mahadlok kay ingon man siya okay ra (We found it suspicious. But we were not afraid because he [Kim] assured us it was okay),” Alesna told reporters yesterday.
He said Kim told him the Starex units belonged to two Korean friends, who frequented the shop.
Alesna said he has been employed at Suwon Jonghap for two years and was promoted to manager eight months ago.
“Ang amo lang tuyo nga di maapil, kay wa gyud mi kahibaw ana (We just want to clear our names, because we are not aware of the crimes),” he said.
Last Thursday morning, Alesna, Prado and Barcelo went to the MCPO. The police later went to the Suwon Jonghap, where two more Starex vans were recovered.
One of the units was reportedly owned by a Korean woman in Lapu-Lapu.
Bureau of Immigration 7 Director Casimiro Madarang III said he has yet to receive an official request from the police to check the records of the Korean nationals arrested Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.
He checked the records of Koreans with the same name as the suspects. One has been overstaying in the country for a few days.
Last Thursday, Chu Hyun Chen, who was linked to the car theft incidents by the arrested suspects, went to the Police Regional Office 7 to deny any involvement in the crimes.
The picture that’s emerging shows Korean nationals at the head of the group that has allegedly been stealing Starex vans in Metro Cebu.
“Sila ra’y mo-carnap, mopintal ug mobaligya (They steal, repaint and then sell the vans),” said Chief Insp. George Ylanan, head of Regional Special Operations Group of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7.
He said the group reportedly only used Filipino cohorts as consultants.
“Dili man kaayo sila sweto diri gud (They don’t know their way around here very well),” Ylanan said.
During a press briefing, Chief Insp. Ylanan said that the nurse, Raphael Montilla, will execute an affidavit stating that two of the Koreans stole the vans.
Because Montilla had the least participation in the crimes, the police will probably agree to his being tapped as a state witness, but for now he will still have to face a criminal complaint.
“We already talked it out with the prosecutor and our lawyer. We need him in order to strengthen our case,” Ylanan said.
The owners of the stolen vans have visited the police to claim ownership of the vehicles. However, police didn’t release these immediately and urged the victims to file a case against the perpetrators first.
He said the leaders of the Korean community have expressed their willingness to help in the case.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 23, 2013.