Two people who allegedly carted away over 140 million pesos from Cordillerans through a Ponzi investment scheme were arrested last Thursday (September 17) in Baguio City by detectives belonging to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group - North Central Luzon (CIDG-NCL). The two suspects were identified as Villamor Balawag and Genevieve Gantas. Prior to his arrest, Balawag was the 5th most wanted person in the whole province of Benguet.
Balawag was reportedly the manager of PC Wellness, a company with an office that used to be located at the Pettersen Building along Kilometer 4 in La Trinidad, Benguet. Gantas was an employee of the company. CIDG operatives swooped in to take the two into custody after Judge Danilo Camacho issued warrants of arrest for syndicated estafa against the two suspects.
Balawag's investment scheme reportedly divested over 140 million pesos from 130 Cordillerans. Balawag allegedly promised the investors at least 35% interest on the money they push into his company. The company closed in March of this year, just six months after it was established.
For people who aren't familiar with the way a Ponzi scheme works, here's a short overview courtesy of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission:
"A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. Ponzi scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk. In many Ponzi schemes, the fraudsters focus on attracting new money to make promised payments to earlier-stage investors to create the false appearance that investors are profiting from a legitimate business."