Couple disappears after P1.3-M scam
posted 7-Jun-2018  ·  
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A Filipina woman and her foreign companion vanished into the polluted air of Metro Manila last week after convincing two Virac residents to part with their P1.2 million in jewelry and P100,000.00 in cash.

According to the management of Marem’s Pension House in Sta. Cruz along the main road of the capital town, the couple, who introduced themselves as Ma. Theresa Borja Scalzo and Anthony H. Scalzo, checked in at the establishment at noon of April 25. They said they just arrived at Legazpi airport that day and took the ferry from Tabaco to San Andres before going to Virac.

They initially paid P2,000.00 for the third floor room that cost P1,200.00 per day. With them was another woman, allegedly from the Visayas due to her accent, who was their maid. Mrs. Scalzo said her husband, a diabetic, needed the massage services of the maid who had been with them for 15 years.

Accounts of their stay in Virac alleged that the couple soon befriended hotel employees, even giving them P50.00 which the Scalzos described as mere change compared to the foreign currency they were carrying. They told the counter receptionist that they were looking for a beach resort to buy as Anthony’s sibling would take a vacation in Catanduanes and asked her to find somebody who knows owners of such real estate.

They were referred to one Fe Panti, 43, a resident of Gogon Sirangan who reportedly engages in real estate deals on her free time.

On April 28 at the hotel, Mrs. Scalzo told Panti that she lived along Mabini St. in barangay Calatagan and even pointed out to her a two-storey boarding house as they passed by on board a tricycle.

Leaving behind the maid at the hotel room, the Scalzos and Panti went to Agojo in San Andres where they inspected the beach front property of an American citizen and his Filipina wife that was for sale for about P25 million. Unfortunately, the owner was still in the States and could not decide on the sale of the multi-million estate.

On May 8, they passed by the “ukay-ukay” store of Jose Catalino Julius Taberos, 48, along Rizal Avenue in barangay San Jose. Panti is a close friend of the Taberos couple. Panti asked Angeline Taberos to finance the air fare of the Agojo resort owner in the amount of P30,000.00, which they immediately sent through the LBC branch at the Center Mall.

On May 11, while Panti was at the Taberos store, Julius asked her to tell the Scalzos that he had some jewelry that he wanted to sell. He assured her if the jewelry is sold for P1.2 million, she could have P100,000.00 as her share. The set, he said, consisted of two gold earrings, a pin and ring all of 14K gold with 57 diamonds and four turquoise stones weighing 50 grams.

Taberos said Mrs. Scalzo got his trust as she spoke Ilonggo, claiming she was a native of San Joaquin, the neighboring town of Igbaras, Iloilo where he was born.

Two days later, he gave the jewelry to Ma. Theresa, who said she wanted to show it to Anthony’s mother and have it inspected at a pawnshop. The woman even wanted to borrow P250,000.00 from him, with the amount to be added to the jewelry payment but Taberos said he no longer had that amount.

His wife had advised him to get back the jewelry as he also entertained some doubt but Taberos said he had already given his word to Mrs. Scalzo.

While negotiations were going on between the Scalzos and Taberos, Panti concentrated on the resort deal, with Ma. Theresa showing her a check in Panti’s name and that she would accompany the couple to Manila to withdraw money for the jewelry and the resort.

On May 14, Mrs. Scalzo borrowed from Panti P100,000.00 which she said she would repay with P200,000.00 once the check is encashed at the HSBC branch in Manila. To ensure she would be paid, Scalzo executed on May 15 executed a promissory note before a local lawyer, who was shown by Mrs. Scalzo a Postal ID in her name that was issued by the PhilPost Tandang Sora, Quezon City office.

Panti later told police that she did not doubt why Scalzo already had a check in her name, as the woman had a glib tongue. “Medyo nasilaw na rin ako sa pwede kong kitain sa transaksyong iyon,” she said.

Taberos later gave the jewelry set to Mrs. Scalzo, who claimed her husband had won the lottery in America. All he had as evidence of the transaction was a deed of sale executed between him and Mrs. Scalzo and notarized by the same lawyer Panti used. He later advised Panti to be alert as he had already given the items to Ma. Theresa and that she would be the one to deposit the payment to his account.

In the early morning of May 16, Marem’s personnel noticed the Scalzo’s maid hurrying outside carrying the couple’s baggage. She said she was going to Calatagan where the couple had bought a house to wash their clothes. The Scalzos also left the establishment at 6 A.M., taking with them the key and leaving three days of stay at the hotel unpaid.

The trio, together with Panti, boarded the fast craft for Tabaco and from there used a van to travel to Metro Manila, checking in at the Go Hotel in Mandaluyong City. The Scalzos and their maid occupied one room and Panti stayed at the adjacent room.

When Panti woke up at 7 P.M., she read in her cellphone a text message from Mrs. Scalzo, who said they just went outside as her husband was hungry and that they would bring back her breakfast before they would go out to encash the check.

An hour later, none of the Scalzos showed up and Mrs. Scalzo was no longer answering Panti’s text messages. Panti stayed at Go Hotel until the morning of May 18, hoping that the couple would return but to no avail.

“Pinanghinaan ako ng loob at lubhang nanghinayang kung bakit ko tiniwala sa kanila ang aking mamahaling alahas,” Taberos later told Virac police investigators.

He told the Tribune that he really wanted to sell his jewelry collection so he could buy a jeepney to be used in hauling his goods to other towns in Catanduanes. “Ngayon, ni isang gulong hindi makabili, he sighed.

He said he tried to ask for a copy of the CCTV recording at the LBC branch at Center Mall and at one of the BDO branches in Virac but he was told they needed a court order.

In the meantime, he is taking the unfortunate incident with some humor, thinking that the Scalzos may have been engaged in the same scam for some time now and that they, too, would not escape the long arm of the law.

The Marems Pension House management only learned of the Scalzos’ scam on May 17 when Taberos came running to the hotel to look for the couple. It was soon discovered that the scammers had already left without paying for the lodging bills from May 15 to 17, taking with them the room key. At least, it was said, the couple had the good sense to shut off the lights and the airconditioning unit before they left. The room was already unkempt and stinking of rotting leftovers, as the occupants specifically asked that no housekeeping be done.

It is claimed that even when water from an unattended washing machine seeped into the Scalzos’ occupied room, they refused to let anyone in and even blocked the view of the inside when the hotel owner tried to persuade them to allow utility personnel to mop up the wet floor.

As of last week, all the police investigators had as part of the evidence were blurry still photos of Mrs. Scalzo and a CCTV video of the couple exiting the pension house. Panti said Mrs. Scalzo told her not take their photos but she nevertheless tried to surreptitiously take some shots with her cellphone. Unfortunately, her photos of the scammers were either taken from the back or too far away. One picture of the couple taken by Panti from the back showed them walking along the second floor balcony of the Virac Town Center towards the Blue Café where they had a snack with their victim. It is not known whether the police was able to get a clear picture from the VTC’s CCTV recorder.

It is highly likely that the couple used a fake name as Taberos was reportedly able to confirm from the local postal office that the Postal ID bearing the name of Ma. Theresa Borja Scalzo is fake. According to Panti, the ID was issued by the postal office in Tandang Sora, Quezon City.

Under the guidelines, one can only get a Postal ID by appearing before the postal office with a duly accomplished application form, original copy of birth certificate and barangay certificate attesting to the residency of the applicant issued within three months from the Postal ID application. In addition, a married female applicant has to present the original marriage contract. Costing P504.00 each and processed within a month, the Postal ID is valid for three years for Filipino holders and one year for foreigners.

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