Ponzi schemers liable for estafa
"I invested a considerable amount of money with my friend who represented herself as an agent of a casino corporation. According to my agent friend, my investment would earn an interest of ten percent per month. When I asked for further information regarding the casino corporation, my agent friend refused to give any since accordingly, they are under a non-disclosure agreement. Nevertheless, I accepted the offer and invested my hard-earned money. For the first couple of months, I was able to receive the promised earnings. This enticed me to add more money to my investment. But since then and up to now, I have not heard any word from my agent “friend,” let alone the promised earnings. I want to recover my money and if possible, to held this agent liable. Do I have any basis whatsoever in my claim against this agent?Jenny
Yes. The agent enticed you to invest your money with the promise of earning a lucrative interest per month without clear information about the business and the principal investee. Moreover, after an initial fulfillment of the promised earnings, the agent/investee defaulted and is nowhere to be found. On this note, you might have been a victim of the so-called “Ponzi scheme” which would render the agent liable for estafa.The Supreme Court, in its ruling in the case of People vs. Baladjay (GR 220458, July 26, 2017) penned by former Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. elucidates, to wit:
“x x x Named after Charles Ponzi who promoted the scheme in the 1920s, the original scheme involved the issuance of bonds which offered 50 percent interest in 45 days or a 100 percent profit if held for 90 days. Basically, Ponzi used the money he received from later investors to pay extravagant rates of return to early investors, thereby inducing more investors to place their money with him in the false hope of realizing this same extravagant rate of return themselves. x x x”The Ponzi scheme works only as long as there is an ever-increasing number of new investors. To pay off the 50 percent, Ponzi had to come up with a one-and-a-half times increase with each round. To pay 100 percent profit he had to double the number of investors at each stage, and this is the reason why a Ponzi scheme is not an investment strategy.
The idea behind this type of swindle is that the “con-man” collects his money from his second or third round of investors and then absconds before anyone else shows up to collect. These schemes only last weeks, or months at most.It appears that you are a victim of this so called “Ponzi scheme.” Consequently, the agent in your case can be held liable for estafa through deceit under Article 315 (2)(a) of the Revised Penal Code, viz:“Art. 315. Swindling (estafa). - Any person who shall defraud another by any means mentioned herein below shall be punished by:***
“2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:“(a) By using a fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business, or imaginary transactions or by means of other similar deceits.”The elements of estafa by means of deceit are as follows: that there must be a false pretense or fraudulent representation as to the offender’s power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions that such false pretense or fraudulent representation was made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud that the offended party relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means and was induced to part with his money or property and that, as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.Applying the foregoing to your case, it appears that all of the above elements are present to make the agent liable for the crime of estafa. On this note, as the rules and jurisprudence provide, the corresponding civil indemnity and damages warranted by the circumstances of the case is also proper.We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our narration of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com"
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"Ponzi schemers liable for estafa"
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