The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has warned hotels, lodging inns, pension houses, and other accommodation facilities to be on alert for professional extortionists who use spy cameras, after one owner became a victim.
According to Palawan investigation bureau chief Norman Decampong, a hotel owner in Puerto Princesa City recently sought their assistance in tracking down an extortionist who had bugged one of their rooms with high-tech cameras to film clients in compromising activities.
He did not mention the name of the hotel, but said the unidentified extortionist demanded P1 million from its owner, who refused to give in and instead sought their assistance.
Decampong claimed that the modus is not new, and that it occurs at other hotels around the country.
“Sa ngayon hindi pa natin matukoy kung ito ba ay indibidwal o grupo ng mga tao na nag i-extort sa mga hotels. Mga professional ito, and ang mga gamit nila mga high-tech,” he added.
‘Ang gagawin nila, magche-check-in sila sa mga hotel, tapos maglalagay sila ng maliit na gadget (camera), with that, magkakaroon na sila ng view doon sa hotel, halimbawa sa specific room. Kapag may mag-check-in diyan at makuhanan nila ng video yan, ire-reseach na nila kung sino ito. [Ang] gagawin nila, i-e-extort na nila ang guest ng hotel, ie-extort pa nila ang hotel owner,” he added.
The NBI, he explained, classifies these extortionists as criminals because of their advanced technology and the devastating manner in which they extort their victims.
He said the suspects, who they think are Palaweños, are sophisticated for using high-tech spy cameras, and had, in fact, victimized an individual.
“Ang mga suspek natin dito pwedeng mga taga Palawan din, pero mga high-tech, hind mga basta bastang mag-kokontak. May naging biktima na ‘yan, hiningian ng P100,000 [at] nagbigay. Ilang buwan lang hinihingian na naman, at kapag hindi ka nagbigay, iiskandaluhin ka, sisirain ang pamilya mo,” Decampong said.
In their investigation on March 22, Decampong said the extortionist is using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to be able to hide their location from their victims. They also ask them to send the money through the digital currency called Bitcoin.
“Mahirap i-trace pareho ‘yan, kaya kung may mga ganitong mabibiktima ng mga nag-i-extort na ganito, wag talaga silang magbibigay, dahil pag-nagbigay, uulit-ulitin,” he pointed out.
Last week, Palawan News received a message on Messenger from someone who used a fake account informing it of a hotel where the proprietor had allegedly illegally videotaped his customers checking in.
This anonymous account further alleged that they have proof in the form of videos obtained from their former employer’s file.
“May nakuha din kami na videos ng malalaking tao sa Puerto Princesa na scandal,” the individual said.
“Natatakot po kaming ibigay [ang] identification namin, pero handa po kami magbigay ng raw pictures and videos. May malalaking tao din kasi involve dito kaya fake account po gamit ko,” the informant added.
According to the NBI, the account used by the sender was the same used to demand P1 million from their complainant.
“Nakita ko ang threat sa kanila, may mga message na kung hindi sila magbibigay… In fact, ang threat sa kanila magsisimula yan [noong] April 1, na kung hindi magbibigay sa kanila… P1 million ang hinihingi ha, ang P1 million na ‘yun, ilalagay mo sa bitcoin ‘yun. Kung hindi sila magbibigay, ma-e-eskandalo na ang victims,” he said.
Following a check of the said hotel, they discovered one little camera in one of the rooms.
NBI agents will conduct an unannounced lie detector test on all hotel employees to ensure that no one was involved in the suspected extortion.
“Wala pa tayong schedule, kasi ilang linggo pa lang since nag-inspection tayo, pero magsasagawa din ang NBI ng lie detector test sa mga tauhan ng hotel, para masigurado na wala talagang involve na empleyado,” said Decampong.
Based on NBI records, this is the first extortion occurrence in a hotel in Puerto Princesa City that has been reported to their office.
“Hindi natin masabi, kasi hangga’t hindi pumupunta at nagsabi ang mga hotel management na naging biktima nito, hindi natin malalaman yan. Kung nag-extort ang extortionist, baka ang iba tumahimik na lang o nagbigay, hindi magrereklamo yan, kasi aware din naman sila na pweding masira ang hotel nila, at destructive nga ang mga ito (extortionist), sisirain talaga ng mga ito ang hotel,” he said.