Aman Futures Group founder Manuel Amalilio, who reportedly fled the country after swindling P12 billion from "investors" in his pyramid scam, had been to Metro Manila a few times to purchase several luxury vehicles, sources within the auto industry have told us.
Amalilio, a Malaysian, victimized thousands of people from Pagadian, Cagayan de Oro and Cebu. He lured unsuspecting clients into "investing" in his business with the promise of a windfall in just a short period of time. What started with the common folk--tricycle drivers, teachers, office employees--made its way up to moneyed members of the government and business elite. It now looks like this was the game plan all along.
Apparently, giving his big-time investors multimillion-peso cars was part of Amalilio's gimmick. The car-buying spree gave him a cloak of credibility, stability and power.
"The cars he bought from us were delivered to his investors/victims," said one of our sources who requested anonymity. "I think the cars formed part of the income that the investors/victims were supposed to earn from their investments. One unit went to his wife."
Amalilio would walk into a luxury showroom wearing only casual clothes. He would then launch into his grand spiel about how he was the economic godfather of Pagadian, our sources told us. And then he would begin car-shopping like he was buying bars of soap from a supermarket.
"He would just stay in one corner and point at random models," recalled one source. "If he felt he liked one car--even from a distance--he'd take it, without even bothering to check out its specs and features."
It turned out Amalilio's car-shopping binges were a two-edged sword. First, they were designed to convince his big-time investors to put more money into his Ponzi scheme, and then to attract more investors since word about his automotive generosity spread like wildfire. But second, they were also meant to ultimately hoodwink the premium dealerships he was buying the cars from.
In his initial transactions with a dealership, for instance, he would pay cash right away. After a few cash purchases, he would naturally win the complete trust of the dealer principal, subsequently allowing him to pay with post-dated checks for his next orders. This is how he managed to acquire several expensive luxury cars that--up to the time he left the country--had not been fully paid.
Our sources refused to tell us the exact number of unpaid cars, but said they had recovered most of these already with the help of authorities.
One thing is for sure: It's not just the tricycle drivers of Pagadian who can't wait to get their hands on Manuel Amalilio.