BULACAN, Philippines - Bulacan-Police said they had broken up a suspected cybersex gang in Bulacan province that, they said, had been blackmailing foreigners, who were lured into performing sexual acts online, and could have amassed up to P100 million (S$9.5 million) from the illegal activity.
Eight people were arrested on Thursday in a series of raids in San Jose del Monte City and Norzagaray town. Police also took into custody six young women whose jobs were to persuade foreigners into interacting with them sexually.
These acts were recorded without the foreigners' permission and were used to extort money that was transmitted through a money transfer facility that the gang allegedly controlled, said Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, Central Luzon police director.
He said many of the victims had filed complaints, through the Interpol, against the suspected syndicate members-Ma. Cecilia Caparas-Regalachuela, a businesswoman from Tondo, Manila, and her alleged accomplices Rommel Manucon, Glen Bautista, Rachel Manicon, Mark Andre Rafol, Jenny Espiritu, Randy Espiritu and Mark Tabuso, all residents of San Jose del Monte City and Norzagaray.
Senior Supt. Gilbert Sosa, head of the Philippine National Police anticybercrime group (ACG), said Regalachuela was the suspected leader of the gang, which targeted mostly Asians from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau.
The raiding teams seized 106 units of electronic devices, including mobile phones, computer laptops, data storage devices and a camera.
The police also seized weapons from the suspects' houses.
Sosa said the group might have extorted up to P100 million from foreigners, who did not want their recorded sexual activities to be posted online.
Sosa said the gang lured their victims through social networking sites, using the young women. He said the syndicate would demand a minimum of US$3,000 (S$3,750) from the victims. The money was deposited to a money transfer facility owned by Regalachuela's daughter.
The young women involved in the scam were required to make friends with the victims but were never required to perform sexual acts, Sosa said. He said one of the women had admitted earning as much as P100,000, which she used to buy a house and a used car.
The gang threatens victims with public humiliation through the uploading of their lewd videos to the Internet.
ACG spokesperson Senior
Insp. Joana Fabro said one of the rescued minors was a young boy who earned P70,000 in his first three days at work with the gang. "He was recruited with the promise of receiving big income," the official said.
Regalachuela and the other seven suspects would be charged with robbery, extortion and violating Republic Act No. 10364, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, in relation to Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Fabro said the operation was a follow-up to a previous operation that led to the arrest of 58 suspects.
"The law will eventually catch up with the criminals even if they commit crimes with the use of information and communications technology or the Internet," the official said. Reports from Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Julie Aurelio in Manila