CANADA: PINAY GETS 18 MONTHS OVER INVESTMENT SCAM; ORDERED TO PAY VICTIMS

A Canada-based Filipina has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for masterminding an investment scam that duped 16 people of more than $450,000 in 2007. According to a report on the Toronto Star, Rowena Villanueva, 49, was also ordered by Provincial Court Justice Ford Clements to pay the victims the amount she took from them. The report said Villanueva promised her victims a 10-percent return for investing on her chiropractic clinics. She reportedly lured them by saying the investment is a good way for them to earn money that could be sent to their families in the Philippines. The investors were mostly Filipino caregivers and personal support workers. Villanueva, who did not own any clinics, disappeared when the victims started demanding their money back. The Star, which investigated the scam, found her living in a dilapidated townhouse in North York in 2011. Many of the victims lost their life savings to the scam. “It was a very, very thorough decision,” Toronto police Det. Peter Christie, who investigated the scam, said in the Toronto Star report. Charges against Villanueva's co-accused, Quintin Robles, 57, were dropped after it was revealed during the hearing that he has stage-four pancreatic cancer.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

ALSO: Fake clinic owner guilty of fraud

OCTOBER 2013 REPORT: Toronto woman Rowena Villanueva, accused of bilking fellow Filipinos of over $500,000 in a phony chiropractic clinic scam, pleads guilty to 16 counts of fraud. Quintin Robles and Rowena Villanueva during a Christmas vacation in Varadero, Cuba. Villaneuva has pleaded guilty to 16 charges of fraud totalling more than $500,000. A Toronto woman accused of bilking fellow Filipinos of more than $500,000 in a phony chiropractic clinic scam has pleaded guilty to 16 counts of fraud. Rowena Villanueva, 48, of North York will be sentenced next January after the victims present their impact statements to the court.
Similar fraud charges against her husband, Quintin Robles, 57, are expected to be withdrawn and will be dealt with on that day. The couple were originally co-charged with 34 fraud-related offences. The guilty pleas by Villanueva come two years after a Star investigation revealed dozens of investors were promised returns as high as 7 to 10 per cent a month if they invested in a chain of rehab clinics Villanueva claimed she partly owned with others. READ MORE...

ALSO: Phantom physio clinic bilked Filipino investors of thousands

Abby Pascual was recovering from a car accident that left her with severe neck, back and leg injuries. Her mother had just died of cancer. So when Rowena Villaneuva, a fellow Filipina involved with a physiotherapy clinic, suggested she invest $90,000 from her accident claim and her mother’s life insurance in what she said was a brand new clinic, Pascual followed her advice. It was the last she would see of the money. Soon after, it would be the last she would see of Villanueva. The upstart Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Group, where Villanueva and her husband Quintin “Keith” Robles were partners was offering incredible interest rates of 7 to 10 per cent — per month. This at a time when banks were offering a paltry 2 to 3 per cent a year. There was just one problem. The clinic only existed on paper.
“She got me at a time when I was very vulnerable,” Pascual, 28, said in a recent interview where a dozen angry investors met to plan their next move. “I don’t know how she can live with herself knowing the devastation she has caused to so many of us.” Another investor, Robert Candelaria, said he was “hooked” into investing $10,000 by a promise that interest payments alone would be sufficient to help his family back in the Philippines. “We Filipinos are very trusting people. Our Catholic faith teaches us to trust our fellow man.” The scheme began in 2006 and continued until the couple dropped out of sight two years ago, leaving a trail of bounced cheques, promissory notes, lawsuits and debt totaling at least $750,000. READ MORE...


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Pinay gets 18 months in Canada over investment scam


PHOTO FROM THE TORONTO STAR- Rowena Villanueva on a Cuban beach last Christmas.

MANILA, MAY 19, 2014 (GMA NEWS NETWORK) A Canada-based Filipina has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for masterminding an investment scam that duped 16 people of more than $450,000 in 2007.

According to a report on the Toronto Star, Rowena Villanueva, 49, was also ordered by Provincial Court Justice Ford Clements to pay the victims the amount she took from them.

The report said Villanueva promised her victims a 10-percent return for investing on her chiropractic clinics. She reportedly lured them by saying the investment is a good way for them to earn money that could be sent to their families in the Philippines.

The investors were mostly Filipino caregivers and personal support workers.

Villanueva, who did not own any clinics, disappeared when the victims started demanding their money back. The Star, which investigated the scam, found her living in a dilapidated townhouse in North York in 2011.

Many of the victims lost their life savings to the scam.

“It was a very, very thorough decision,” Toronto police Det. Peter Christie, who investigated the scam, said in the Toronto Star report.

Charges against Villanueva's co-accused, Quintin Robles, 57, were dropped after it was revealed during the hearing that he has stage-four pancreatic cancer. —KBK, GMA News

FROM THE TORONTO STAR

Fake clinic owner guilty of fraud By: Dale Brazao News, Published on Wed Oct 02 2013


Quintin Robles and Rowena Villanueva during a Christmas vacation in Varadero, Cuba. Villaneuva has pleaded guilty to 16 charges of fraud totalling more than $500,000.VIEW 2 PHOTOSzoom FACEBOOK

Toronto woman Rowena Villanueva, accused of bilking fellow Filipinos of over $500,000 in a phony chiropractic clinic scam, pleads guilty to 16 counts of fraud.

Quintin Robles and Rowena Villanueva during a Christmas vacation in Varadero, Cuba. Villaneuva has pleaded guilty to 16 charges of fraud totalling more than $500,000.

A Toronto woman accused of bilking fellow Filipinos of more than $500,000 in a phony chiropractic clinic scam has pleaded guilty to 16 counts of fraud.

Rowena Villanueva, 48, of North York will be sentenced next January after the victims present their impact statements to the court.

Similar fraud charges against her husband, Quintin Robles, 57, are expected to be withdrawn and will be dealt with on that day. The couple were originally co-charged with 34 fraud-related offences.

The guilty pleas by Villanueva come two years after a Star investigation revealed dozens of investors were promised returns as high as 7 to 10 per cent a month if they invested in a chain of rehab clinics Villanueva claimed she partly owned with others.

Many of the investors, most of them Filipino caregivers and personal support workers, lost their entire savings. Abby Pascual lost $90,000 after Villanueva persuaded her to invest the proceeds of her mother’s life insurance policy and other monies.

Her mother had died of cancer and Pascual had been in a serious car accident, and Villanueva told the distraught young woman that investing the insurance monies in her company would be the safest investment vehicle for her.

“All we are looking for is justice and some sense of closure,” said Pascual, who was the driving force behind getting the group of fraud victims to go to police. It wasn’t until the Star investigation that the Toronto police got involved, resulting in the 34 fraud charges laid by Det. Peter Christie of the financial crimes unit.

A 71-year-old widow told the Star she lost more than $70,000. When she asked for her money back, Villanueva issued a series of cheques on her daughter’s account, some of which bounced.

“This is a story about the victims,” Christie said Monday. “These are genuine victims, people that were duped by a trusted member of the community.”

Villanueva, he said, preyed on the vulnerability of her fellow countrymen by telling them they could have more money to send home to their families in the Philippines if they invested through her.

Christie is preparing victim-impact statements for the Jan. 10 court date, at which time police say charges against Robles are expected to be dropped.

The investment scheme took place between 2007 and 2011, and known losses total more than $500,000. Christie believes, however, there are other victims who did not come forward.

The Star investigation found Villanueva pulled off the scam by claiming to be part-owner of the legitimate Physical Therapy One chain of clinics, using business cards and company letterhead to solicit investment funds. In some cases, she persuaded victims to take out loans to come up with money for her, even driving some to their banks to get the funds.

Corporate documents obtained by the Star revealed Villanueva and Robles were partners in a company called Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Group. The company, which existed only on paper, was used extensively to solicit funds from investors.

Most investors were given official-looking contracts, complete with interest repayment schedules. When the victims tried to call in their investments, the couple dropped out of sight, leading many of the investors to believe they had returned to their native Philippines.

The Star found them living in a dilapidated townhouse complex at Don Mills Rd. and Don Valley Parkway. At the time Villanueva refused to address the allegations, saying she was checking with her lawyer regarding her rights.

Shortly after the Star’s investigation was published in October 2011, Villanueva and Robles declared bankruptcy owing creditors more than $600.000. Some but not all of the investors were listed as creditors.

The bankruptcy case has been delayed pending the result of the court proceedings, as has the $1.5-million lawsuit filed by Physical Therapy One Inc. against Villanueva.

In its lawsuit, the company says Villanueva worked for a time as an independent contractor on commission for referrals and marketing but she was never an owner. She was fired after the company learned “she had engaged in fraudulent activity” to solicit funds for her own endeavours.

And while many of the victims struggled, even to this day, to repay loans they took out to invest with Villanueva, the couple appeared to carry on with an upscale lifestyle. Photos posted on Facebook depict vacations taken by the family at a luxury Caribbean resort in Varadero, Cuba.

Even after the Star published its investigation and the couple had declared bankruptcy, the Star received calls from readers saying they had spotted them gambling at Casino Rama in Orillia and at the Blue Heron casino in Port Perry.

According to Pascual, most of the victims plan to attend court in January in their search for closure to their investment nightmare.

Investigation: Phantom physio clinic bilked Filipino investors of thousands By: Dale Brazao Staff Reporter, Published on Wed Oct 26 2011


Some of the investors who claim they lost money to Rowena Villanueva and her husband, Quintin Robles.VIEW 3 PHOTOSzoom DALE BRAZAO / TORONTO STAR Order this photo

Abby Pascual was recovering from a car accident that left her with severe neck, back and leg injuries. Her mother had just died of cancer.

So when Rowena Villaneuva, a fellow Filipina involved with a physiotherapy clinic, suggested she invest $90,000 from her accident claim and her mother’s life insurance in what she said was a brand new clinic, Pascual followed her advice.

It was the last she would see of the money. Soon after, it would be the last she would see of Villanueva.

The upstart Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Group, where Villanueva and her husband Quintin “Keith” Robles were partners was offering incredible interest rates of 7 to 10 per cent — per month. This at a time when banks were offering a paltry 2 to 3 per cent a year.

There was just one problem. The clinic only existed on paper.

“She got me at a time when I was very vulnerable,” Pascual, 28, said in a recent interview where a dozen angry investors met to plan their next move. “I don’t know how she can live with herself knowing the devastation she has caused to so many of us.”

Another investor, Robert Candelaria, said he was “hooked” into investing $10,000 by a promise that interest payments alone would be sufficient to help his family back in the Philippines.

“We Filipinos are very trusting people. Our Catholic faith teaches us to trust our fellow man.”

The scheme began in 2006 and continued until the couple dropped out of sight two years ago, leaving a trail of bounced cheques, promissory notes, lawsuits and debt totaling at least $750,000.

The Star spoke to Villanueva’s husband, Quintin Robles, who is listed as a partner in the phantom rehab clinic. Robles now works on an airplane assembly line in Willowdale. Robles denied any knowledge of his wife’s business dealings. He called his wife on behalf of the Star, but she would not talk to a reporter.

“On the life of my children, I don’t know what is going on,” Robles said, adding his wife used his name on official documents and his bank account without his knowledge. “I know she owes money to some people, but that’s it. Honest to God.”

The Star interviewed about a dozen victims, some of whom said they were directed by Villanueva to deposit funds into Robles’ personal bank account. Dividend cheques issued from the account bounced.

Most of the victims are former Filipino caregivers, personal support workers and their families. Many had been involved in car accidents and were referred to Villanueva (who at one time worked as a receptionist at a doctor’s office, then was somehow involved in a rehab clinic) for help in processing insurance claims, or to set up physiotherapy appointments.
Pascual and others say they are now in desperate financial straits.

“I had to remortgage my home to cover the loans. It’s taken me a while to get over this.”

The Star investigation found victims were directed to deposit funds directly into Robles’ personal bank account, and that dividend cheques were issued from his account that bounced. Robles claims his wife was using his bank account to conduct her business and he has no idea where any of the money went.

A spokesperson for the physiotherapy clinic where Villanueva claimed to be part owner — Physical Therapy One — said she was not a part owner, but would not discuss what she did at the Scarborough clinic at Brimley Rd. and Highway 401.

The gregarious, smooth talking, 46-year-old mother of three told victims she could afford to offer sky high dividends because the physiotherapy business was booming in Canada.

She drove clients to their banks to apply for loans or lines of credit, imploring them to max their credit cards and turn over the funds to her for investment.

All got signed contracts and promissory notes from Villanueva attesting to the safety of their investments and interest payment schedules.

When dividend cheques did not materialize the investors received letters from another phantom company — the Professional Reliable Group — explaining the interest payments were being scaled back from monthly to quarterly. The letters were signed by a Dr. Timothy Van. The Star has checked and there is no such company or doctor registered in Ontario.

Even as some investors were becoming frustrated, new investors were coming in.

Macela Bautista, a 71-year-old widow said Villanueva persuaded her to turn over her life savings of $70,000. When she demanded repayment, Villanueva issued her cheques on her daughter’s account in Waterloo, where she is a university student. The cheques bounced.

As word that funds were not being repaid begin to spread, Villanueva’s clients converged on the couple’s Scarborough condominium demanding their money back. One woman, Cecille Menor,claims Villanueva slammed her door shut, injuring her hand. Manor invested $25,000, and is still owed $14,000. She later chased the couple’s car thorugh the parking lot in a failed attempt to get a license plate as they sped into the night.

The few able to speak to Villanueva were given a litany of excuses as to why the dividends were not forthcoming, including: Her accountant’s car had been broken into. Her car was stolen. Her brother was in the hospital.

In one case Villanueva told an investor, a registered chiropractor who had already loaned her $100,000, that her best friend’s son was dying and needed money. The plea worked as Villanueva was able to squeeze another $20,000 loan.

Victims who complained to police have been told it is a civil matter.

Two investors have obtained default judgments (the couple did not show up in court to defend the action) against the pair.

Jong-Han Oh, the chiropractor, obtained judgment for $306,000 against Villanueva in October, 2009, and $15,000 against Robles for a cheque he wrote to cover his wife’s non payment of promised interest. The cheque did not clear.

To obtain the loans Villanueva pledged as collateral the 22 per cent shares she claimed to be buying in Physical Therapy One clinic. Those shares were never forthcoming and the clinic said she is not an owner.

Lawyer Donald Fiske of Pace Law Firm said his firm has collected about $15,000 of the $85,000 Villanueva and Robles owe his client after obtaining a court order directing his employer to garnish Robles’ wages.

And while the victims struggle to make ends meet, Villanueva and Robles appear to be doing well. Photos posted on Facebook show the couple and two of their children spent last Christmas vacationing at a resort in Varadero, Cuba.

“We’re still trying to pay off loans for the money we gave to her, and they are living like a king and queen,” said investor Isabelita Candelaria after seeing photos of the couple frolicking on the white sand beaches, and taking boat cruises and carriage tours around the Caribbean island.

Dale Brazao can be reached at dbrazao@thestar.ca or 416-869-4433.


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