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DH in suicide case a victim of ATM scam, friend says

02 September 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao  

A victim's bank record shows telltale signs of money laundering

The Filipina domestic helper who hanged herself last month in a flat on Stubbs Road, Wanchai, had been saddled by many problems, including being tricked into lending her bank account to a man from Ghana who used it to move illicit money.

This revelation prompted a call from Cynthia Tellez, general manager of the Mission for Migrant Workers, for an intensified campaign by the community and the Consulate to warn Filipino migrants against such scams.

“Kaya nanawagan din kami sa mga kababayan natin pagka may radio program, sa mga Facebook page na iwasan ang pagpapahiram ng kanilang ATM cards, kasi sila ang mapapahamak nun. Siguro maganda rin kung ang Konsulado ay gumawa ng paraan para maiparating sa kanila ito,” Tellez said.  (That’s why we call on our fellow Filipinos on radio programs and on Facebook, to avoid lending their ATM cards, because it would lead them to trouble. It would help if the Consulate would make an effort to relay this message to them).

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Tellez’s statement came after a friend of L. Tambong, who police said had hanged herself inside her room at her employer’s flat in Greenville Gardens on Aug. 19, told The SUN that the victim became desperate after Immigration rejected her new visa application.

This was after Tambong received a letter informing her about the suspicious transactions in her bank account, said the friend who uses the name Chel on Facebook.

“Kaya po iyon ang mabigat niyang problema, ginamit ho name niya [in laundering illicit money],” said Chel, who lives in the same housing block as the victim. (That was her big problem, her name was used to launder money).

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Chel said that as far as she knew, Tamondong was not arrested over the illegal use of her bank account, but was on the verge of losing her job.

Tapos noong kukuha na siya ng visa hindi na siya binigyan, kasi na hold na daw (ito) ng government dito,” said Chel. (Then, when she tried to renew her visa, she was denied because the government here has put her application on hold).

Chel said Tambong ran into money problems, even took out loans she could hardly repay,  after she was tricked into allowing her ATM card and name to be used for money laundering.

Sabi ko sa kanya dati, noong 2019, i-stop niya na yun, bukod sa ginamit ang ATM niya sa pag send ng pera, naloko pa siya ng taga Ghana,” said Chel. (I told her in 2019 to stop what she was doing (because) not only was she tricked into letting her ATM card used for sending (illicit) money, she was also scammed by the guy from Ghana).

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The ATM scam link was confirmed by another Filipina named Xyriel who claimed in a Facebook post that she is the victim’s sister-in-law. Both she and Chel said Tambong did not share her problems with others, including family members.

Xyriel asked for prayers for their family so they could bring Tambong’s body to her home in Cavite as soon as possible.

Tamayao says the employers were so shocked by the suicide that they moved out

Meanwhile, Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao who heads the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, said Tambong’s elderly employers took 10 days to report the helper’s death because they were traumatized and didn’t know what to do.

The female employer named Fung, who was about 72, was sickly, Tamayao said. They were the helper’s only companions in the Shiu Fai Terrace terrace flat.

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Fung’s 75-year-old husband was the one who found Tambong hanging by a nylon rope in her room, according to police.

The elderly couple was apparently so upset that they had moved out of their home after the incident.

On Aug 29, the elderly man finally called the employment agency that placed Tambong with them and asked what they should do.

That same day, the agent went to OWWA and the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section to report the death and seek help in contacting the deceased’s family.

Tamayao said their records show Tambong came to Hong Kong in 2017 to work for another employer before being hired by the Fung couple.

Tellez says more effort should be made to stop Filipino workers getting involved in scams 

To head off similar tragedies, Tellez said the Mission has been educating Filipino workers to avoid people who ask to “borrow” their ATM cards in exchange for a small fee.

From their experience, she said Filipina newcomers who are mired in debt because of the illegal placement fees they had to pay to secure their Hong Kong jobs, are easy prey to the sweet-talking scammers.

She reiterated her call for the Consulate to step up the campaign against money launderers and other scammers, especially in the wake of a big number of Filipina domestic workers being arrested recently after a romance scam and money laundering gang was busted by police.

Consul Paulo Saret, who heads ATN, has been doing this for months, since many of those who were arrested in the recent raid and in similar police operations earlier had sought their help.

He said ATN has consistently warned Filipino workers against being lured by easy money offered not just by other nationalities, but also by their compatriots who exploit their trust.

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