Martha makes an
agreement with the banker: he can keep some of her personal valuables as
collateral while Louie and the rest of the family escort her to a bank to
withdraw the rest.
from Martha is a man who Manoy introduces as a banker from Singapore. Both are still regularly seen with groups approaching tourists.According to some estimates, more than 50 individuals are working in an organized gang within Saigon, divided
into multiple cells. She has 21 but not enough cash to
keep going. All three men are from the Philippines and unknown to Martha, have been
running a gambling scam in Ho Chi Minh — also called Saigon — for several
The gang let her go, now that they have what they were after.
A well organized syndicate
scenarios involve a conversation that evolves into an invitation to meet a family
member who happens to be visiting the victim’s country of origin, there are other variations.
Even though the
group may successfully lure a victim to a secluded location, they aren’t always
able to dupe them into card games. The hardest part is getting past the
humiliation and anger at myself for allowing this to happen to me.”
An invitation is
extended for you to meet the daughter, due to the coincidental connection.
importantly, Martha isn’t a professional gambler. He says he’s a professional dealer at the “Royal Hotel.”
Police said one
victim had been taken for US$20,000. She’s just a regular
backpacker visiting Vietnam
on holiday and today she’s also the Filipino card sharps’ “mark.”
“I tell them
that they’re the 10th, 11th, or 12th person who knows someone going to work in a
hospital in my home town and I think it’s very interesting,” says one traveler, sarcastically.
A difficult investigation
“A few arrests of Filipino nationals reported to the Embassy by other Filipinos
did not progress into court cases.”
Meanwhile, the card sharps continue to stalk the streets of Saigon, waiting patiently for the next innocent tourist to fall into their trap.
their real names.
Our banker isn’t
Singaporean or even a banker. Most are from the Philippines although they have
Inside a small
house in Ho Chi Minh City in
four people sit at a table playing blackjack.
“As well as the
money I handed over to them, they also took my camera and I was threatened with
violence if I didn’t co-operate. So instead you will be invited to lunch.
Victims have accused this man of posing as a dealer named “Woody” or “Let.” This story is
one that’s often repeated in Saigon.
But not everything
– actually nothing — in this high-stakes card game is what it seems.
Two card sharps flee security guards at a shopping mall. He has told the woman beside him, Martha, that he is a local gym
Lunch turns into
a friendly blackjack game, when suddenly one of the players, a “Singapore
banker,” pulls out a case containing around US$50,000.
The game sours
In a letter sent last March to Thanh Nien Weekly, the Philippines’ ambassador, Jerril G. In these cases, some victims allege being
drugged or kidnapped and then robbed.
being made to clamp down on the scam artists.
sources however, most or all of these individuals have since been released.
. Martha, a recent victim of the scam and whose name has
been changed here, explains: “If I walk away, he wins the pot. Santos, wrote: “As of December 2, 2010, we know of five
cases involving nine Filipinos in detention centers or awaiting trial in
court … only arrests that progress into court cases are officially conveyed to
the Embassy for appropriate consular assistance and representation.”
arriving at home, the daughter is at the hospital because the grandmother
has been taken ill. “I lost US$12,000, I feel like such a fool, I knew I
should have walked away but I didn’t,” blogs a victim named Mick.
They wait on streets
frequented by tourists, such as Phan Ngu Lao, Le Loi, and Dong Khoi.
regarding these cases have been posted on the U.K., U.S., Australian and Canadian
“Uncle Manoy” is
dealing. She hands it to the men, who
accept, saying a loan shark could cover the rest.
The “banker” ups
the ante to US$1,000. One ploy is to say their daughter is
applying for a visa to visit your home country.
to withdraw nearly US$1,000. Manoy, who has previously agreed to be her “secret partner,” winks and lends her the necessary US$1,000.
She wins again.
Not so fast
sits opposite. Most
players would consider him the ideal opponent; he’s throwing around lots of
stakeouts include landmarks like 29 Thang 9 Park, adjacent to Pham Ngu Lao; the
front entrances of Parkson and Vincom shopping centers; and Bach Tung Diep Park in
front of the Ho Chi Minh City
travelers who are approached do not go along with the con artists, many
visitors have complained that the group is a nuisance.
everything falls apart. … Already
over-extended by US$1,000 and not wanting Manoy to lose his money, I panic.”
When six Filipinos
in the group were arrested last May, grabbing headlines across Vietnam, city police
said they had assembled a special investigative task force following complaints
from mainly Japanese and South Korean tourists who had been fleeced out of
large sums of money by “Asians speaking English.”
artists’ aim is to snare foreigners who are traveling alone and have
just arrived in Vietnam
for the first time.
scenario starts with a request for the victim to translate a letter received
Some victims are
not as lucky as Martha. A Japanese national allegedly lost US$8,000
Some victims lose big
Manoy and Louie
are not Vietnamese, nor are they Malaysians, as they claim.
The stories are
often similar in nature: a person claiming to be from Malaysia
strikes up a conversation with you in the street. Martha’s heart pounds
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