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SEC files charges against casino junket operator Pantollana for money laundering

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a criminal complaint against Hector Aldwin Liao Pantollana and his associates, alleging involvement in unlawful activities related to money laundering.

The group reportedly amassed P4 billion by enticing investments in a casino junket scheme, promising a five percent monthly return and an additional two percent for those who recruited others.

In its complaint filed on May 31 with the Department of Justice, the SEC charged Philippine National ESports League, Horizon Players Club, and Team Z—entities led by Pantollana—with violations of Sections 8, 26, 28, and 51.3 of Republic Act No. 8799 (Securities Regulation Code, or SRC), and Sections 3, 6, and 12 of Republic Act No. 9160 (Anti-Money Laundering Act, or AMLA).

The SRC mandates that securities cannot be sold without a duly filed and approved registration statement, and requires brokers and dealers to hold SEC licenses. Violations of these provisions are considered unlawful activities under the AMLA.

Also named in the complaint were alleged leaders of the casino junket operations, namely Zeus Liao Pantollana, Reymond Lacsamana Galang, Quarry Quieng, and Erwin L. Bangalan.

Other individuals implicated were Den Abad, Daniel Agbisit, JM Almodiente, Rhoda Andrada Casuga, Avegail Namoc Cruz, Maricel Raposon Cesumision, Stephen Cecilia Dorog, Jennilyn Galletes Delos Santos Floresca, Raffy Palangdan Floresca, Heinn Carreon Humilde, Zen Carreon Humilde, Ariel Ramos Katigbak, Vanessa Mendoza Magboo, Paul Tolentino Maranan, Gumba Martinada, Kim Mejica, Christian Jerome Quizon, Neshema Rock Lorico Renta, Ronaldo Embing Renta, James Christopher Tan Roxas, Mikhaela Damasco Ty, Maria Cecilia Tabano Vizcayano, and Joseph Junia Zabala.

SEC’s Enforcement and Investor Protection Department found that the group solicited investments for their casino junket operations and issued loan contracts promising guaranteed profits of 60% to 111% annually, secured by postdated checks.

According to the SEC, Pantollana’s scheme, presented as loan contracts but fulfilling the criteria of investment contracts, falls within the SRC’s jurisdiction.

Sections 8 and 28 of the SRC prohibit the sale of securities without proper registration and licensing, while Section 26 bars fraudulent schemes related to securities, carrying penalties of up to P5 million in fines, 21 years’ imprisonment, or both.

The SEC highlighted characteristics of Pantollana’s operation resembling a Ponzi scheme, which relies on new investments to repay earlier investors, often collapsing when new inflows dry up.

Philippine National ESports League, Horizon Players Club, and Team Z lack SEC registration and licensing to conduct investment solicitation, the SEC noted.

The SEC has urged the Department of Justice to pursue criminal charges against the group and recover assets linked to their illegal activities.

Before filing the criminal complaint, the SEC issued a cease and desist order on March 23, 2023, later made permanent on October 12 of that year, to halt their operations.

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