“It is the fool who thinks he cannot be fooled.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY –– A fool and his money are soon parted, as the saying goes.
“But I only wanted to help him,” bewailed Jerome Uy, an architect in the Philippines, who now works as cashier in a Manhattan laundry service.
He was referring to one Philip Co, “an acquaintance I met only in a party three to four years ago,” recalled the 43-year-old Uy, a graduate of Far Eastern University in Manila.
“Philip Co is not my friend. He only sought my help through Facebook. I met him only once,” he clarified.
Uy sought the help of this writer after Co allegedly bilked him with a total of $3,000 (P141,570) through a deceitful manner.
“I want to recover my money because I worked hard for it,” Uy lamented.
This was how Uy narrated what had transpired between him and Co:
“On November 23, 2015 I received a private message on Facebook from Peter Co telling me that his son has been shot in the Philippines and that he needed some cash for his son’s hospital expenses. He sent me his mobile number.
“On November 24, he went to my work place (in Manhattan) and handed me a check from Bank of America worth $1,400 under the name of Su M. Su. Philip Co claimed the check was owned by his employer. When I verified it, the check was ‘cleared’ thus I deposited it in my account in Chase bank. I gave him cash equivalent to the amount in the check.
“On November 25, Peter Co went back and brought two more checks: worth $250 under the name of Zhang, and $1,200 again under the name of Su M. Su. The checks were ‘cleared’ so I deposited them again in my account and gave him cash equivalent to the amount in the checks.”
Uy said his nightmare began at 10 o’clock in the morning on November 30, when he was notified by Chase bank through his mobile phone’s app that all the checks have been “overdrawn.”
He immediately called Co but the later allegedly refused to answer. Uy’s successive follow up calls proved futile thereafter.
Unable to get Co’s cooperation, Uy sent a private message to Co on Facebook and ribbed him: “Niloko mo ako” (You fooled me).
Co never replied.
On December 1, he posted his fate on Facebook lamenting that “I worked hard for my money and they are all gone after I was victimized by a fraud.”
When he mentioned Co’s name, some Facebook friends commented they were also victims of the same person who used the same trick in the past.
“That Philip Co also told us his son has been shot and he needed emergency money to send to the Philippines,” a Facebook friend commented.
Uy went to the police but was told that his predicament was tantamount only to a civil case.
Uy went to the bank where he deposited the checks and was told to submit a detailed report.
Confused and disoriented, Uy sought my help last December 6.
“I need your help, Alex,” Uy appealed. “I’m so stressed because of what happened to me. I couldn’t sleep.
I advised him to “waste no time” and to first file a report to the bank and use the same report as basis for his formal police complaint.
We drafted the report.
Uy brought the report to the bank and subsequently to the police. He also gave police Co’s photo he downloaded from Co’s Facebook account.
Uy was confident police would arrest Co, whose last known address was reportedly at Elmhurst in Queens.
On December 9, Uy sent me a text message: “I’m losing hope. I wished God had protected and guided me.”
Police failed to locate Co, who was believed to be in hiding and could have fled New York for other states.
Co, who spoke good Tagalog, is reportedly an overstaying visitor with no legal papers to work in the United States.
To compound Uy’s woes, the bank would not restore his money.
Uy said he suspected that Co stole the checks from Chinese-American residents. He was worried the check owners might run after him, not Co.
Or he could be tagged as “conspirator” to a fraud because the checks had been deposited in his account.
No paper trail could pin down Co in as far as fraudulent transaction is concerned, Uy was informed.
Two more text messages I received from Uy were self explanatory and prognostic:
1. “Everything was falling apart from the bank to the police department”;
2. “Where is God? Where is Jesus?”