Raided Pasay scam hub a major challenge to gov’t experts–PAOCC

August 19, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 204 views

EVIDENCE recovered inside a raided scam hub masquerading as a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) in Pasay is posing a major challenge to government experts tasked to crack the raided company’s codes, the Journal Group learned yesterday.

PAOCC Executive Director Gilbert DC Cruz supervised the opening of the 32 money vaults on Wednesday at SA Rivendell Gaming Corporation, Inc at 2741 Zamora corner Gaitos Streets in Pasay City and learned about the severity of the operations of the scam syndicate based on the evidence recovered.

Found inside the broken vaults were P7 million cash and $6,000 in different denominations, several passports, countless SIM cards, several credit and debit cards as well as pages of seed phrases and suspected crypto hardware wallets and/or automatic OTP (One-Time Passport) generators.

Cruz said they also recovered several guns that suggest massive criminal activities are taking place inside the raided facility.

Recovered guns include a caliber 9mm ammunition, an ammo loader, a pair of handcuffs, a gun silencer and a long firearm’s forward grip.

Officers likewise discovered several electric flashlight tasers inside one of the rooms located on the 3rd floor of the building.

In the past, POGO-related kidnappings have seen a number of Asians, most of them from China being abducted by their compatriots who are armed with high-powered firearms before being tortured with the use of tasers and baseball bats.

Judge Gina Bibat-Palamos of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 111 issued a search warrant authorizing the PAOCC and the National Bureau of Investigation to search and break open all 32 money vaults found inside the SA Rivendell Gaming Corporation, Inc compound.

Judge Victoria Soriano-Villadolid of the Manila RTC Branch 24 was the first judge who issued the eight warrants to seize, search, and examine the computer data against the Pasay City-based facility which was used by the PAOCC and the NBI to storm the establishment last August 1.

Policemen have rescued dozens of victims of brutal kidnapping and torture acts over the past several years.

Citing expert findings, the PAOCC said that the significant items found during the latest search were the 17 suspected crypto hardware wallets and/or automatic OTP generators and the seed phrases.

The PAOCC said these are ‘indications that most of the illegal proceeds of the crimes are now being laundered through digital payment platforms.”

“Fewer hard currency will be found in these POGOs as they evolve their crimes to hide their criminal proceeds,” the PAOCC added.

Experts described ‘seed phrases’ as 12-24 mnemonic random words that are used as passwords or codes to recover the data in a digital wallet.

Once a seed phrase is logged into a crypto wallet, the syndicate can gain access to their victims’ digital assets, such as crypto coins like bitcoin, among others.

However, their presence in the vaults could point to the possibility that the scores of old generation androids and i-phones are still used to launder criminal proceeds, the PAOCC reported.

“Obviously, these discoveries will pose a serious challenge to our forensic accountants and cybercrime investigators,” the PAOCC said.

During the August 1 raid, officers caught various individuals operating digital platforms that were engaged in a number of illegal online activities such as love scams and pig butchering, online games manipulations and other forms of online investment frauds.

A number of the mobile phones that were seized were still accepting GCASH payments from their purported victims at the time of the raid.

During the conduct of interviews, the operating units were able to ascertain that the POGO operates similarly with the previously raided POGO hub in Sun Valley Clark.