Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Repost From Ellen Tordesillas- Vera Files

Pinay in textbook scam nabbed in the US

By Yahoo! Southeast Asia Editors – June 18th, 2010
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Mary Ann Maslog, the woman who delivered a P3-million bribe in Malacanang 11 years ago in connection with a P200-million textbook contract and was on the run for a string of swindling cases in the Philippines and the United States, has finally been arrested.

A newspaper in the state of Virginia reported the arrest last week of Maslog, now known as Mary Ann Smith, in Seattle, Washington in connection with an immigration scam she operated out of Henrico, a county in Virginia.

“Mary Ann Smith, 41, was arrested in Seattle last week and is awaiting extradition to Memphis, Tenn., where she will stand trial for her role in a Virginia company operating as the International Business Network Inc. (IBN),” the Richmond Times Dispatch said in its June 16 issue. There is still no trial date.

Maslog, who is married to Michael Lee of Virginia, is charged with six counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud in connection with IBN’s receipt of money to facilitate the processing of students in the US.

IBN, which was located at Paragon Place off Glenside Drive in Henrico, charged as much as $6,480 per student to gain access to visas when, according to a federal indictment issued in Memphis, “visa ‘fixers’ or ‘brokers’ had no special access to the United States government that could enable such individuals, agencies or companies to arrange for a student visa,” the news report said.

Maslog’s company also offered permanent resident status or green cards, with victims losing about $34,000, the report, quoting the April federal indictment, said.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reported that the Central Virginia Better Business Bureau learned of numerous Virginia victims and worked with federal agents for months to unravel IBN operations throughout last year.

It cited the case of a Chesterfield County businessman, Tany Roth, who lost as much as $45,000 to IBN in an effort to bring three relatives to Richmond county from Cambodia for study and to facilitate an adoption.

Roth said he sent the company checks but never received any services, and that Smith canceled meetings and disappeared. Roth’s experience is not part of the federal indictment.

The report said that even after receiving more than $40,000, IBN demanded payment of additional fees to cover such things as health insurance.

A Filipina based in the United States wrote VERA Files to say she met Maslog and her husband last December and was one of their victims.

“She (Maslog) posed as someone from Grant USA and they gave us seminars on grant writing where about 10 of us paid $50 each for a one-day seminar,” said the woman, who asked that her identity be withheld. “They claimed to have an office in Makati. We later found out about a month after our seminar that they’re not connected with Grant USA.”

The woman added, “I just want to attest that she’s been going in and out of the Philippines, and I am certain that she and Michael Smith have been victimizing Filipinos through their lies because that’s what they did to us.”

VERA Files reported earlier this week that Maslog is also facing charges of grand theft amounting to more than $100,000 and scheme to defraud in the amount of $50,000.

Maslog, then married to Rommel Maslog, now vice mayor of Talisayan, Misnamis Oriental, first gained notoriety in the Philippines when she was summoned in 1999 by the Senate Blue Ribbon and Education, Arts and Culture Committees probing corruption in the purchase of the textbooks for public schools. She had delivered P3 million to the office of then Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who asked National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the matter.

Diokno said he had testified in a Manila court in a case filed aqainst Maslog but has lost track of the case.

The Sandiganbayan has a standing warrant of arrest for Maslog in connection with a P24-million textbook scam in which Maslog, as an agent of Esteem Enterprises in February 1998, allegedly conspired with budget and education officials in Eastern Visayas to collect money from the government using falsified Sub-Allotment Release orders (SARO). SAROs are documents required by the DBM for the release of payments to contractors.

James Katarungan, who had helped investigate Maslog in the US, said Maslog jumped bail the first time she was arrested. Following her arrest last week, he said, “I highly doubt they will let her out on bail this time.”

“It looks like she’s facing some very serious federal charges. The US government is going to throw the book at her,” he said.

VERA Files is the work of senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

Reposted From Ellen Tordesillas- Vera Files

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