Authorities raid mail-order bride ring posing as call center company
A call center company that supposedly matches Filipina models with foreign clients was raided by a joint task force at their office in Calderon Compound in Duterte Banawa, Cebu City at 2:45 p.m. last Saturday.
Senior Insp. Michael Virtudazo of the PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group said they arrested the Chinese owner of Filipino Heart Internet Consultant (FHIC) identified as Mei Yee or known as Ma Yee and 34-year-old manager Ligaya Vitor.
“The subject of the search warrant (issued by Regional Trial Court Judge Ma. Lynna Adviento last Jan. 24) was Yee alone. However, Vitor was also there,” Virtudazo said.
Yee and Vitor may face charges of violating Republic Act (RA) 10364 or the Expanded Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 and RA 6955 or the Anti-Mail-Order Bride Act, Virtuadazo said. He said 14 agents or translators worked in the company all agreed to testify against the owner and manager.
Virtudazo said the company had been placed under surveillance since November last year. The raid was a joint effort by the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) and Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT). Virtuadazo said the call center company invites Filipino women to pose for a photo shoot and post their pictures and their personal information in separate individual online accounts.
“Ila na nang gisabot daan nga maoy ibutang sa website. Buhatan na nilag account sa idateasia.com ug ang ilang mga agents na ang bahala nga mu-entertain sa mga foreigners nga ganahan makig-chat (They tell the models that they would place their information on their website idateasia.com in separate corresponding accounts. It will now be up to the agents to entertain and chat with interested foreigners),” he said.
Virtudazo said idateasia.com is a paid dating site targeting foreigners wishing to marry Southeast Asian women. Virtudazo said interested foreigners will be charged US $399 for $100 worth of credits. One credit is equal to six minutes of chatting, while more credits will be deducted for voice mails. Virtudazo said it’s the agents, not the models whom foreigners actually chat with online. He said the services are often limited to chats and voice mails.
The task force was able to recover 35 computer units including one MacBook Air laptop, one IPad tablet, one Canon camera, one Sony camera, one Samsung Galaxy Note II phone and one Saitian Switch Hub SEL. Also seized were two TP-Link desktop switches, one PLDT MyDSL broadband stick, three closed circuit TV cameras with DVR and one monitor, one TV Case King USB flash drive, one portable power bank, a bundle of assorted documents, one printer and P168,500 in cash.
Yee and Vitor are detained at the Guadalupe police precinct pending the filing of formal charges against them in court today, Virtudazo said. RA No. 6955 declares as unlawful the practice of matching Filipino women for marriage to foreigners on a mail-order basis and other similar practices.
The law prohibits the advertisement, publication, printing or distribution of brochures, fliers and other related materials on arranged marriages between Filipino women and foreigners including those online. Last Saturday’s raid came amid an intensified campaign by the national government on cyberpornography and human trafficking which has been identified as the number one criminal activity in the country during a recent PNP command conference.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) earlier called for tougher laws against trafficking and cybercrimes especially when minors in the country are involved as well as in other parts of Southeast Asia.
RA 10364 was signed by President Benigno Aquino III in Feb. 6 last year ahead of the disclosure of a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report prepared by the US State Department that lists the Philippines under Tier 2 of their 3-tier watchlist.
Tier 2 countries are defined as countries whose governments don’t fully comply with the international Trafficking Victims Protection Act but are making significant efforts to comply with the standards set by the law.
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