By Anne Wong, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
May 14, 2014
TORONTO, Canada – Rowena Villanueva, who has pleaded guilty to sixteen counts of fraud, has been sentenced to 18 months less three days in prison, plus two years of probation.
Kababayans who fell victim to Villanueva’s fraudulent activities found it extremely difficult to sit through court and have the ruling judge revisit their victim impact statements.
In 2006, Villanueva devised a scheme and told prospects that she had built a physiotherapy rehab group in Toronto.
She promised a guaranteed five to fifteen percent monthly return on their investment.
But there was no business base, no clients, and no ability to maintain business.
The victims lost more than $450,000 that Villanueva used for personal purposes.
“To give up hard earned cash, where you have to give up your line of credit, mortgage your home, borrow from a variety of people within your family to invest, that is a clear sign that this investment should not be done,” Toronto detective Gail Regan said.
“Nung marinig ko yung binabasa, parang hindi ko nakuha yung sarili ko na maawa sa kanya kasi sa dami ng tao na niloko niya, hindi yan mababayaran ng iyak-iyak lang eh,” Liberty Aquia, one of Villanueva’s fraud victims, said
“Hindi yung iyak-iyak lang at saka idinadahilan yung sakit nung asawa. Hindi puwede yung ganun.”
She was also actively involved with church.
Many of her victims are still paying for borrowed money that was lost.
Another of Villanueva’s victims, Gloria Gahunia, said, “I’m glad nasintensiya sya. Na ang unang inaano nila ay house arrest, that’s no,no,no. Hindi house arrest. Ang gusto ko nga at least five years pa eh.”
The judge said the gravity in her offense is very serious as it was not only reckless, but also intentional.
It was large scale fraud where Villanueva was content in using others to advance her purposes.
She is to continue with counseling for her post traumatic stress disorder and pathological gambling.”
Villanueva promises that she’s on the road to redemption and rehabilitation.
She says she takes full responsibility for her actions and knows this will haunt her for the rest of her life.