The suspect, identified by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as Jay B. Zambrano, 31, allegedly collected a total of at least P1.3 million from the victims, lawyer Arcelito Albao, NBI agent, said.
Albao said Zambrano is a lecturer on fingerprinting, among other subjects, at the Philippine National Police Regional Training Center and also teaches criminology at the University of Mindanao.
Three women accused Zambrano of large scale illegal recruitment after he allegedly failed to deliver his promise to help them process and facilitate their immigrant visa applications.
Zambrano allegedlly hired and recruited the victims, identified as Grace Cardenas, Letecia Sierra and Judith Paccial to work and become United States citizens.
"He promised and convinced us that he will process, facilitate and secure US Visa for all of us because he has so many contacts at the US embassy and people from the US," the victims said in a joint affidavit of complaint on November 5.
Cardenas paid P320, 000 in cash, Sierra P500,000 paid for by her brother and Paccial her house and lot. Paccial told investigators she was made to sign a deed of sale for the house and lot in the amount of P500,000. She said in the affidavit that Zambrano and his family have occupied the property.
The victims said that after complying with the requirements along with the payments, they were provided with a schedule of their departure to the US, which has been postponed four times.
They were scheduled to leave first in February; then April and July. They were recently told they would leave in December.
Zambrano, who Albao said was in hiding before the entrapment, denied the allegations. He told MindaNews he helped the victims in good faith and pointed to another man, identified in the affidavit as Roy Montera, as the one who claimed connections and promised the scheduled departure.
"It is just a miscommunication problem internal to the family," he told MindaNews from the NBI detention cell.
The victims, in their November 5 affidavit, said Zambrano pre-arranged their marriages to three men of the Tanutan family as part of their application process.
Zambrano said he is a relative of the Tanutans who are allegedly applicants for "green card" migrant visa as allegedly petitioned by their relatives in Hawaii.
He pointed to Montera, as the one who pledged the victims facilitation because of his alleged connections.
Zambrano claimed he facilitated the immigration papers of his grandfather, his aunt and another relative. The victims charged Zambrano of violation of Republic Act 8042 or the Large Scale Illegal Recruitment (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995) and estafa under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
Lawyer Francisco Villano, Zambrano's counsel, said his client claimed he did not recruit but just offered to process the immigration papers. Albao said the scheme of recruitment via prearranged marriages with American citizens is common in Manila, but Zambrano's case showed it is slowly preying on local victims. He could not verify if the Tanutans are, indeed, American citizens or have applied for a "green card" petition.
He said the suspect has allegedly operated only in Davao City, but it’s possible there are more victims. He said another complainant, identified as Alex Aguirre, would separately file an affidavit in line with an inquest investigation at the City Prosecutors Office for the case. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)