NBI raids firm in Cebu City

Cebu City map.
Cebu City map.

AGENTS from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) National Capital Region (NCR), along with members of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) NCR and Cebu, raided on Thursday night, Feb. 22, 2024, a business establishment in Cebu City that allegedly engaged in fraudulent activities.

In an interview with SunStar Cebu on Friday, Feb. 23, Garry Ruiz, special investigator of NBI NCR, said they started looking into Fergus Inc. last November after they were informed by IFW Global, a private investigation agency in Australia that specializes in financial fraud and asset recovery, about its alleged anomalous transactions.

Ruiz said IFW Global represents four Australian nationals who claim they lost 1.2 million Australian dollars, or around P43 million, to the company.

The NBI NCR did not provide specific details regarding the complaint.

Ruiz explained that instead of seeking assistance from the police, most Australians go to a private security firm if they fall victim to financial fraud.

He said Fergus Inc., which has two locations in Cebu City, operates a boiler room that entices foreign clients to invest in stock shares, commodities and cryptocurrency.

A boiler room, according to investopedia.com, “is a place or operation—usually a call center—where high-pressure salespeople call lists of potential investors (‘sucker lists’) to peddle speculative, sometimes fraudulent, securities. Sucker lists identify victims of previous scams.”

He said they first raided Fergus Inc.’s office inside a building at the Cebu IT Park past 10 p.m. on Thursday, where they found four computers.

When they checked the computers, he said they didn’t find anything that would indicate anything illegal. However, the computers suddenly shut down after 20 minutes.

Ruiz said there was probably remote access to the computers.

The raiding team proceeded to the second location in Barangay Kalubihan on Friday, where they found several computers and around 20 employees.

Ruiz said they arrested a foreign national whom they believed to be the manager and brought him to the NBI 7 office for questioning.

SunStar Cebu is withholding the name of the individual pending the filing of charges against him.

Ruiz said he believes the second location is the “conversion room” where victims are initially enticed to part with their money.

“This is the start of victims being defrauded,” he said.

Online opportunities

Ruiz said Fergus Inc. posts financial investment opportunities online. When someone makes an inquiry, that person is immediately contacted by a call agent from the firm, he said.

He said Fergus Inc. provided its call agents with scripts and taught them techniques to convince a person to invest.

The usual line includes telling potential victims they are making a mistake on missing out on a possible lucrative investment, he said.

“So now maliliwanagan yung client kasi magaling magsalita (So now the client will be enlightened because the call agents are very good with words),” Ruiz said.

He said Fergus Inc. uses Voice over Internet Protocol, a technology that uses broadband internet connection to make voice calls instead of a regular or analog phone line, to contact clients.

He said a client has to shell out US$250 or around P14,000 to be shown the portfolio. Once the client is enrolled, he or she is referred and transferred to call agents at Fergus Inc.’s office at the Cebu IT Park.

Ruiz said the foreign national they arrested underwent an inquest proceeding, and was later released.

He said they were waiting for the case to be disposed.

He said the foreign national and others allegedly involved may be charged with violating Section 11 of Republic Act 11765, or the Financial Products and Services Consumer Protection Act, for committing investment fraud.


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