MANILA, Philippines—Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation arrested late Wednesday afternoon a suspected con artist who allegedly gypped the wife of Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and a celebrity stylist out of some P15 million in jewelry.
NBI Reaction, Arrest and Interdiction Division (RAID) personnel 40-year-old Francesca Santiago, 40, at her home at 30-A Zobel Street, BF Homes, Parañaque City, on the strength of an arrest warrant issued by a Quezon City court.
NBI-RAID head agent and lawyer Ross Jonathan Galicia said they failed to arrest Santiago’s husband, Benjamin, who was allegedly also involved in the con games and remains the object of a police hunt.
Galicia said Santiago’s arrest stemmed from complaints lodged by a number of wealthy personalities, including singer/actress Helen Gamboa and celebrity stylist Eric Pe Benito.
He said that Santiago allegedly starts the confidence game or swindle by befriending a person whom she expects to own expensive jewelry which she offers to buy.
Galicia said that Santiago would then pay for the jewelry with checks to show goodwill but when the victim sells her pricier jewelry, the con artist would then pay with unfunded checks and disappear with the merchandise.
The Santiago couple, Galicia said, has been allegedly involved in swindling since 2006.
Gamboa filed a case against the Santiago couple in the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court’s Branch 39 for violation of Batas Pambansa 22 or the Bouncing Checks Law, claiming that she was defrauded by the couple of some P8 million worth of jewelry, of which P4.5 million was paid for in bouncing checks.
Benito lodged a complaint with the NBI after the Santiagos allegedly gypped him out of P7 million worth of jewelry.
Francesca Santiago remains in the custody of the NBI pending her presentation in court.
Galicia called on the suspected con artist’s other victims to surface and file formal complaints of estafa against her.