Three foreigners have been arrested by the PNP (Philippine National Police) in what authorities are describing as a “black money” scheme.
Among the arrested foreigners was 43-year-old Brown Akew Fonboh, allegedly from the United States, 28-year-old Gum Blanche Murphy from Angola and 44-year-old Aroon James who claimed to be from the American territory of Puerto Rico. All three were arrested by fast-acting PNP officers during an entrapment operation conducted by the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) in Pasay City, right next to the Mall of Asia [Quick aside – I am not sure what is the bigger crime – the black money scam run by these unscrupulous flimflammers or the fact that the vaunted Mall of Asia doesn’t have central air conditioning!]
The Black Money scam is simple but effective and has been kicking around for over ten years. Like many of these scams, the origin seems to be in the Scam Capital of the World, Nigeria and is based on a centuries old hustle called the ‘red mercury’ scam. The victim is contacted through whatever means (email, text, in-person, etc.) and then told there is a large amount of ‘blackened’ US dollar bills (or other currency) that were slated for destruction but intercepted en route. A special chemical is required to remove the blackening agent and the scammer will even pull one bill out at apparent random and show how the black chemical is removed. He will then either spill the chemical removal agent or have just a small bottle of it. He will then say he will split the money with the victim if the victim will provide thousands of dollars to purchase more of the removal chemical. The scammer will even tell the victim that he can hold the briefcase full of notes (either blank paper ‘bills’ or counterfeit currency) as collateral while the scammer runs off to get more blackening removal chemical. Of course, the scammer never returns and the victim is left short of cash but with a cheap case full of counterfeit bills and one heck of a cool story.
The arrest of these foreigners on May 28 came just three days after five nationals from the African nation of Cameroon were arrested in another black money operation.
In the first case, a Chinese national approached the police and lodged a formal complaint against the scammers, claiming that he had given them 250,000 pesos ($5,000 US dollars) to purchase ‘special chemicals’ that would take the black coating off a large number of US 100 dollar bills.
A police spokesman stated that “This is a new scam, where some type of liquid is put on the bill to reveal the currency underneath.” In fact, the “Nigerian black money” scam has been around for over a decade, merrily separating greedy suckers from their hard-earned cash.
The PNP spokesman went on to note that the wily hustlers resisted arrest which resulted in a chase and resultant injury to several of their heroic officers. The suspected swindlers apparently tried to toss away their scamming gear but it was later recovered by sharp-eyed investigators.
In total, over 5 million pesos ($100,000 USD) in police-marked entrapment money, 52 100 dollar American bills (suspected counterfeit) and four bottles containing a mysterious white chemical were received during the operation. The spokesman stated that the chemical will be chemically tested to ascertain its contents.
Finally, the PNP officer offered the following: “The arrested foreigners were only carrying their ID’s. Foreigners are supposed to have their passports with them, but the suspects did not have their passports.” To verify their identities, the PNP are coordinating with the US, Angolan and Puerto Rican Philippines embassies. [Um, pretty sure there isn’t a Puerto Rican embassy in the Phils….]
All three suspects are being charged with swindling, assault on persons of authority, resistance, disobedience and charges of syndicated estafa (deceitful harm).