Filipinos claim friends duped them into "billboard investment scam"

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

May 22, 2014

Filipinos claim friends duped them into “billboard investment scam”

GLENDALE, Calif. – You see them everywhere, along highways and streets, on top of buildings.

Billboards — a multi-million dollar industry, where a space can cost an advertiser tens of thousands of dollars a month.

Oye Esguerra thought she had a chance to make a good investment when Catalina “Cata” Generoso and Maria “Honey” Avelino gave her a business proposal.

Under the proposal, Avelino, who was known to have experience in the printing business, and her partner Generoso, told friends like Esguerra that they sold billboards to major companies.

But they needed investors with a $10,000 minimum buy in to help them secure the billboards. Investors like Esguerra would receive $300 dollars every 36 days that the billboard was up.

But with the deal seeming to work at first, many of the investors continued to reinvest their initial money never withdrawing their principal.

“I trusted her because we were friends and she even issued me an initial contract that there is a billboard business. So I did make an investment. Through the years, whatever I would earn I would put it back. And in the end the total was $50,000,” Esguerra said.

At first, there were no signs of anything suspicious, as Esguerra and others continued receiving what they thought were interest payments. Some like 80-year-old Ding Huertas invested their retirement savings. But beginning in late 2012, those so-called interest checks started bouncing.

“I invested $10,000 and the checks I would receive from her bounced. There was no funds left in the bank,” Huerts said.

Avelino blamed major companies like KB Homes and Disney whom she claimed she was working with for delayed payments.

When investors brought up the issues with the companies, they say the companies told them that Avelino never brokered billboards for them.

“We discovered that she was never associated with KB and even when we called, even the legal department had said finally in the end after several attempts to contact them, finally realized that there was no business, no legality of KB and Maria Rosaria Avelino and Catalina Genoroso,” Esguerra explained.

The victims say, they’ve identified as many as 40 other victims throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona. They’ve calculated that Avelino and Genoroso may have taken over
$3 million in the alleged scam.

One company that Avelino claimed to have worked with issued a cease and desist order against her, threatening legal action if she continued claiming that she worked with them.

Avelino’s bank then told investors trying to cash checks that her account was closed.

As more investors began looking for the couple, it became more difficult to reach them, their home foreclosed and phone number disconnected.

Emails sent by Balitang America have also gone unanswered.

At least one alleged victim has filed a lawsuit against Avelino, but records show they have yet to respond to the suit.

“Now we have heard that Rosario and Katalina are doing the same type of operations in the Philippines, that there is a billboard investment and they are now looking for investors,” Esguerra said.

Some victims have begun filing complaints with the Federal Bureau of Investigation late last year. The FBI has told them that the investigation is ongoing.

You can contact Steve Angeles at steve_angeles@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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  • Kikay Pang0
    22 May 2014 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Mingling with fellow Filipinos are Ok, but never engage yourself doing business with them … the results are usually very treacherous.

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