In May 2014, agents of the Philippine National Police and the Interpol conducted simultaneous raids in multiple “call centers” in the Bicol region, Laguna, Bulacan and Taguig City, resulting in the arrest of 58 people and the confiscation of hundreds of computers, cellphones, cameras, and pornographic materials.
The suspects were said to be operating a “sextortion” scheme, where victims were tricked into sending nude pictures or videos of themselves, then later coerced into paying money if they did not want the lewd material published or sent to their friends and families.
The crime is borderless, victimizing hundreds in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Singapore. The suicide of 17-year-old trainee mechanic Daniel Perry of Scotland was traced back to the one of the syndicates operating in Bulacan, news reports showed.
In Bicol, an “online marketing” company allegedly extorted money by forcing victims into subscribing to online dating services. Investigators identified the head of the operation as a certain “Charvel Rebagay” or “Charvel Yap Rebagay,” according to the police and news reports.
The name “Charvel Rebagay” would later appear in two Suspicious Activity Reports or SARs filed by a U.S. Bank on July 29, 2014 and Oct. 28, 2014. The bank reported that a person named “Charvel Rebagay” received 46 wire transfers worth $427,925.00 and two wire transfers worth $11,157.00 from a money remitter to his account in BDO.
The U.S. bank’s online research noted that “Rebagay appears to be an internet marketer, entrepreneur, author, blogger, financial trader, and owner of several businesses online and offline.”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that a “Charvel Yap Rebagay” was the owner of the online business “Digital Minds,” which was allegedly involved in sextortion activities.
Digital Minds staff were arrested in May 2014 in Naga City. Documents seized by investigators revealed remittances from a money transfer agent and screen grabs of fake identities used by the workers in extorting money from victims.
According to its articles of incorporation submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Digital Minds BPO Services Inc., a company based in Naga City, is owned by a “Charvel Yap Rebagay” who is also a resident of the city.
PCIJ was unable to verify the identity of Rebagay despite efforts to track him down. PCIJ wrote to a person who identifies himself as “Charvel Rebagay” on Facebook as well as the “Charvel Yap Rebagay” listed in Digital Minds’ corporate papers. PCIJ did not get a response. PCIJ also reached out to Rebagay’s lawyer who was identified in news reports, but she opted not to disclose any information about the case.
The AMLC said it could not disclose if it had investigated these activities due to confidentiality rules.
BDO Unibank Inc. also declined to say if it had flagged or investigated the transactions related to “Charvel Rebagay.”