Vietnam police bust Filipino card sharks preying on tourists

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(L-R) Four Filipinos Estreuta M. Debelem, Aserdin Cadion Eduardo, Pineda Sevilla Regina, and Elizag Jovito Corpuz were arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on May 3.

Police in Ho Chi Minh City have arrested four Filipinos from a group who allegedly invited foreigners in Vietnam to join card games and cheated them out of thousands of dollars each time.

Three members of the group, Aserdin Cadion Eduardo, 44, Pineda Sevilla Regina, 31 and Elizag Jovito Corpuz, 31 were caught on May 3 in District 1 when they were escorting a Japanese victim to his hotel, asking him to get a further 100,000 Yen (US$1,058) to continue playing. The Japanese, Wakita Kiyohiko, 43, had lost $73 to the game by then.

Investigators found that Eduardo had met Kiyohiko on the street and brought him to a rented home on Nguyen Thuong Hien Street in Binh Thanh District, ostensibly to help translate a letter from a relative in Japan, a trick deployed frequently by the gang.

Eduardo, also known as Alex, introduced himself as a card dealer at a casino and offered to teach Kiyohiko how to play.

The group leader Gaspar Gaudenecio JR. Mariano, also known as Gado, and other Filipinos were called to the house to play with him. Gado pretended to lose at first and then they cheated Kiyohiko to win $73, police said.

Gado has managed to evade the police thus far.

Police caught another member Estreuta M. Debelem, 40, when searching the rented house in Binh Thanh District. The gang's victims were brought to the house every time.

Four packs of cards were seized, with a laptop and 300 chips of different denominations including $10, $1,000 and $10,000.

Investigators suspect the group has 6-8 members.

They also found that there were several similar groups from the Philippines operating such scams since 2008, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

A special investigation was started on April 16 after foreign consulates in HCMC reported that their citizens had lost a lot of money after being cheated at card games.

Most of the victims were Japanese and South Korean men.

The detained Filipinos told the police they entered Vietnam as tourists, stayed for a couple of months to "earn" money and returned home.

Each member has earned around $20,000 since 2008, Tuoi Tre reported on May 3.

They also ran similar operations in Cambodia and Thailand, cheating foreigners from the US, Europe or other Asian countries, the group members confessed.

Police are looking for all Filipinos involved in the scam. Two Vietnamese citizens involved in the operation have been summoned by the police but their identities have not been revealed yet.

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