MANILA — The Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) on Tuesday arrested 27 persons involved in cybersex activities and ‘sextortion’ in an operation in Cabanatuan City, PNP-ACG Director Senior Superintendent Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said.
Eleazar said the suspects were arrested inside the office of TLS Synergy Group, an online marketing firm in Cabanatuan City.
“We have reason to believe that the suspects’ activities could lead to ‘sextortion’ after we discovered that the company was engaged in the maintenance, control and operation of lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activities in front of web cameras for a fee”, said the PNP-ACG director.
The raid led by the Chief of Regional Anti-Cybercrime Office 3, Police Chief Inspector Ronelio O Manaog, came in the wake of an alarm raised by the PNP-ACG over the presence of foreign and domestic cybercrime operators involved in cyber pornography, cybersex dens, illegal gambling, credit card fraud and identity theft.
Eleazar said they raided the office of principal suspect Florendo Holgado, armed with a search warrant for violation of Section 4(c)1 of Republic Act 10175 issued by Judge Richard A. Paradeza of Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 72.
The police operation took place at No. 31 Melencio Extension in Kapitan Pepe Subdivision, Barangay San Jose Sur, Cabanatuan City at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.
However, Holgado was not around during the raid.
The arrested suspects include seven women who were caught in the act of engaging, chatting, and showing recorded videos of females doing simulated sex.
The suspects are now being held at the PNP-ACG headquarters in Camp Crame. They are set to face raps for violation of Section 4(c)1 (Cybersex) of Republic Act 10175, otherwise known as Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code or Immoral Doctrine, Obscene Publications and Exhibitions and Indecent Shows.
The PNP-ACG chief said the operatives seized 30 computers, 31 cellphones, 3 printers, 2 monitors, 2 telephone sets, a router, several raffle coupons, and other pieces of documentary evidence during the raid.
According to Eleazar, they discovered that the 27 persons were hired by Holgado to work for him as Chat Sales Agents/Online Marketing Agents or ‘Chat Operators’ who have been trained for simulated sex videos.
“They are looking for possible victims on various dating sites, social media sites, blogs sites and porn sites that can be easily accessed through the internet,” he said.
PNP-ACG investigators discovered that the ‘Chat Operators’ are engaged in advertising obscene pornographic sites (through www.webcams.com, and www.sexplaycam.com) and online chatting (using Yahoo, Facebook, MSN, and Skype).
Records show that in 2014, PNP-ACG agents arrested 58 suspects involved in cybersex activities in Bulacan, many parts of Bicol, Laguna and Metro Manila. Eleazar said that the mode of operation of the 58 suspects arrested in 2014 were very similar to that of the TLS Synergy Group in Cabanatuan City, thus triggering the PNP-ACG investigation of the online marketing scheme of the Nueva Ecija-based company.
Eleazar said that they are conducting a thorough investigation to determine the actual involvement of the company in ‘sextortion’ activities.
“We are digging deeper into their possible ‘sextortion’ activities since we found photographs, videos, and messages between the victims and the suspects in many of the digital evidence we had seized,” he said.
Eleazar warned the public anew to be wary of the modus operandi of ‘sextortion’ syndicates operating in the country. He said that in most cases, the ‘chatter’ or suspect will encourage his/her target to take part in a video chat through Skype.
The ‘chatter’ will then show a simulated video of a naked woman and entice the victim to go naked on camera. As soon as the victim agrees, the ‘chatter’ will then record the live video on his/her computer and will later blackmail the victim by threatening to send the recorded video to his Facebook friends once he fails to heed the chatter’s monetary demands.
Eleazar said that the PNP-ACG is currently conducting more police operations against cybersex, sextortion activities, and any violations committed by, through and with the use of information and communications technologies in the country.
The raid was conducted two days after the PNP-ACG crushed a Manila-based cybercrime syndicate composed of five men engaging in sex and other obscene acts in front of webcams being viewed online by their clients, majority of them foreigners involved in pedophilia and other sexual perversions.
Eleazar said that the suspects were receiving payments for their services through different money remittance services such as Western Union, Palawan Express, Cebuana Lhuiller, Smart Money Master Card, Globe Beep Master Card and other payment systems, such as Payoneer Prepaid Master Card. Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan/PNA/northboundasia.com