More syndicated estafa cases filed against Coco Rasuman and relatives

16 January 2013

The Special Panel of Prosecutors from the National Prosecution Service (NPS), created by Department Order No. 963, s. 2012, found probable cause to file two (2) more syndicated estafa charges in court against JACHOB "COCO" A. RASUMAN ("RASUMAN") who, along with some of his closest family members and relatives, allegedly operated a large-scale investment/pyramiding scam in the Lanao del Sur and other proximate areas.

Resolving two (2) separate complaints filed by NAIM L. SAMPAO and ACHMAD D. SANGCAAN, the Special Panel, in Resolutions both dated 10 January 2013, found that all the elements of syndicated estafa are present, namely: (a) that there must be false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means; (b) that such false pretense, fraudulent act or means must be made or executed prior to or simultaneous with the commission of the fraud; (c) that the offended party must have relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act or means, i.e., he or she was induced to part with his money or property because of the false pretense, fraudulent act or means; and (d) that such resulted in damage suffered by the offended party.

Complainants SAMPAO and SANGCAAN both alleged that RASUMAN and company committed a series of acts designed to lure and convince investors to believe that their business was real and solvent. They are alleged to have committed fraud by holding themselves out to the public as a group involved in a legitimate investment business that could yield extraordinarily high profits (e.g., a minimum of 70% up to 100% return of investment) in a very short time, through oi l exploration, petroleum sale, investments in the stock exchange market, car trading, wholesale of cement, when, in truth, what they perpetrated was but a sham to induce more and more investors to part with their money.. In the beginning, they made a show of paying investments in advance or ahead of the maturity dates, paraded luxury vehicles bearing the stickers "BDR", which is a reference to RASUMAN' s father, former Department of Public Works and Highways Undersecretary BASHER D. RASUMAN, SR. (RASUMAN, SR.), who made it known that he was running for Congress in 2013, and gave away expensive luxury vehicles to those who made huge "investments".

Ultimately, however, they declared bankruptcy, closed their accounts, resulting in the dishonor of the checks issued to the complainants, and failed to pay back the investments of the complainants despite demand and in spite of their promises to do so. It is claimed that he and his family thereafter took refuge in an army camp in Marawi City and, while there, Rasuman gave a television interview where he promised to repay investors on 28 February 2013 (instead of the original promised date of 15 August 2012). Later, the Rasumans allegedly intimated that they no longer had any intention to pay their obligations.

SAMPAO claims that he paid a total of P14.285 Million and suffered damage in the amount of P26.51 Million (amount invested plus interest at the promised 70% rate), while SANGCAAN claimed to have invested more than P5.13 Million, and claims damage in the amount of more than P15 Million.

As to the other respondents, it is alleged that RASUMAN' s father, RASUMAN, SR., and his father-in-law, Sultan YAHYA "JERRY" M. TOMAWIS ("TOMAWIS"), worked to lure and convince investors by publicly backing RASUMAN' s scheme and, particularly during the celebration of Rasuman's birthday, made pronouncements encouraging investors to believe and support his business.

As to the others - namely, Rasuman's wife, PRINCESS TOMAWIS-RASUMAN, his three brothers, Vice-Mayor MANING A. RASUMAN, JEROME A. RASUMAN, BASHER D. RASUMAN, JR., and his mother, EMA A. RASUMAN - they are alleged to have actively operated and managed the business along with RASUMAN, and even personally accepted deposits from investors.

RASUMAN, his father RASUMAN, SR., and his brothers, are alleged to have signed a document denominated "KAPASADAN" or "AGREEMENT" , undertaking to pay their investors on February 28, 2013 in view of their inability to pay their investors last August 15. Likewise, Sultan TOMAWIS is alleged to have signed, along with his daughter (RASUMAN' s wife), a list of their properties, which they submitted to the Provincial Crisis Management Committee for its disposal to pay their investors.

Only two (2) of the respondents filed their counter-affidavits, that is, RASUMAN and his father-in-law Sultan TOMAWIS. Coco Rasuman, in his defense, claimed, among others, that he cannot be charged with syndicated estafa because he operated the business as a sole proprietor and conspiracy among him and his co-respondents were not proved; while his father-in-law denied supporting his business or allowing the same to operate in his gasoline station in Saduc, Marawi City, and even claimed in his favor the Affidavits of Desistance executed by the complainants.

The Special Panel found that there is probable cause to charge respondents with syndicated estafa for operating a Ponzi Scheme (named after 1920s swindler Charles Ponzi), which works only as long as there is an ever-increasing number of new investors joining the scheme because, to pay 100% profit, the number of investors at each stage have to be doubled. This makes a "Ponzi scheme" a scheme and not a legitimate investment strategy. Furthermore, the fact that the group was not formally organized as a corporation does not bar a charge for syndicated estafa as they could be considered an "association" within the contemplation of the law. The Affidavits of Desistance were not given credence as to discharge Sultan TOMAWIS, as they are afterthought retractions that are not given probative value and, in any case, they did not contain any statement that disavows the veracity of the allegations in the complaints.

Hence, RASUMAN, his wife, father, father-in-law, and brother, BASHER RASUMAN, JR. , are to be charged with two counts of syndicated estafa (under both the SAMPAO and SANGAAN complaints); while his mother (under the SANGCAAN complaint), and two other brothers (under the SAMPAO complaint) wil l be charged with one (1) count of syndicated estafa. The corresponding criminal informations wil l be filed today with the Regional Trial Court-Cagayan de Oro City.

This is in addition to the case earlier filed before the RTC-Cagayan De Oro last November 2012, which charged RASUMAN, his father, mother, wife and seven (7) others with syndicated estafa. The Motion for Reconsideration filed by the respondents in said case were denied last 20 December 2012.

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