P600M scammed in one year

Lourdes Baarde (left) and Joel Domayan were arrested in Metro Manila on Thursday for estafa charges. They are accused of duping around 800 persons in a P600-million investment scam. (Jennifer P. Rendon)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon

ROXAS CITY, Capiz – In a span of one year, a resigned employee of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)-Roxas City was believed to have accumulated at least P600 million from around 800 investors mostly from this city.

But late of 2018, Lourdes Baarde, 42, a resident of Rio Grande Subdivision, Barangay Baybay, Roxas City, could no longer be reached. She also resigned from her work at the BIR.

Her disappearance meant the dissipation of monies invested by hundreds of individuals to her company Forex Investments.

The investors later learned that there were hundreds of them who are now looking for Baarde and her four alleged cohorts.

They later sued Baarde and company for syndicated estafa in relation to Presidential Decree 1689.

On Nov. 14, 2019, members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), together with Roxas City Police Station, arrested Baarde and her alleged cohort, Joel Domayan, in two separate operations.

Baarde was arrested in Calamba, Laguna while Domayan, 28, was collared at his residence in South Triangle, Quezon City on the strength of a warrant of arrest in Criminal Case No. C-261-19.



Rico (real name withheld) was one of the scores of complainants who waited for Baarde and Domayan after they were flown from Manila to Roxas City early evening of Nov. 15.

He admitted he was lured into investing P200,000 after Baarde promised them of a 25 percent monthly interest rate.

“We were blinded by the promise of a big return,” he said.

Most of the investors plunked in P10,000 to P20,000 which the suspect was able to return.

But with the enticement of higher earnings, they reinvested their money and even added more.

Rico even stood as broker for Baarde who bought several properties when her business was just several months old.

“I saw bundles of cash during payouts,” he said.

Rico said Baarde later told her husband, who works as a seafarer, to stop working as she will just give him money.

They later heard that she went to the United States to process the repatriation of her sibling’s remains.

But Rico’s P200,000 appeared small compared to alias Dodoy’s P5-million investment.

Dodoy is a businessman who claimed to have wanted another business by investing in foreign exchange.

“We trusted her because she’s from BIR. We see her when going to the office. We didn’t think she would run away,” Dodoy said.

They started investing in 2017 but they could no longer get in touch with Baarde sometime in October 2017.

Police believed that Baarde may have duped more than 800 complainants.

“We heard there were even judges and those in the judiciary who were also hoodwinked,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Jomuad, Jr., Roxas City Police Station chief, said.

Boboy, a local government employee, said his co-complainants include teachers who borrowed money in order to invest in Baarde’s company.

“We suspect there could even be policemen and politicians who have invested. Others were just embarrassed to come out,” he said.

Worse, several complainants died before they can recoup their investments.

“Others went into depression and later died,” Dodoy said.

On Friday night, several complainants insisted of seeing and talking to Baarde and Domayan but police did not allow them.

“We’re not giving them special treatment. They’re in our custody and it’s our responsibility to ensure their safety,” Jomuad said.

It was gathered that both arrested suspects still denied they committed any crime.

Domayan claimed he is a trader.

“They both claimed that the money is not in their possession,” he said.

Jomuad added that manhunt operation is still going on to arrest the suspects’ three co-accused.

But on the possibility that the money would be returned to the investors, “that remains to be seen.”