NBI arrests two suspects for overpricing of thermal scanners

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The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has arrested two  suspects– a man and a woman–  during two separate operations in Manila and Quezon City for overpricing medical supply worth P1.422 million,  as crackdown of the government against profiteering and overpricing continues.

NBI Director Eric Distor identified the suspects as Richard  Beloy who was arrested in Manila on Monday,  and Dr. Cedric Sarmiento de Castro, a female doctor,  who was arrested in Quezon City on Tuesday both in an entrapment operation by agents of the NBI-Special Action Unit (NBI-SAU) in the midst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic now afflicting the country.

De Castro is  a registered Physician with the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC).

The arrested suspects in the two  operations have been charged for violation of Section 5 (2) (Profiteering) of R.A. 7581 in relation to R.A. 10623 otherwise known as the Price Act of the Philippines as penalized under Section 15 in relation to DTI Memorandum Circular No. 20-07 dated March 19, 2020; and violation of Art. 52 (b) of R.A. 7394 otherwise known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines as penalized under Art. 60 in relation to Art. 14 (7) of the Revised Penal Code will be filed against the suspects.

Distor said in the first operation, the NBI-SAU received an intelligence report on Monday relative to the rampant selling of overpriced gun-typed thermal scanners by Jasrich Medical Supply and Hospital Equipment store along Quiricada street, Sta. Cruz, Manila.

On the same date, the store was placed under close monitoring.

Distor added that validation made by NBI-SAU revealed that the gun-type thermal scanner is being sold by said store at P7,500.00 per unit as against its actual cost of around P500.00 to P1,035.00 in the local market.

Due, however, to extreme demand caused by the recent viral infection, thermal scanners have gone scarce, Distor stressed.

Under strict orders, an entrapment operation was hatched on the same day with marked money dated, pre-marked and inserted at the bills comprising of P127,500.00 for the purchase of thermal scanners.

At about 1:30 in the afternoon of the same day, after coordinating with the local PNP, NBI-SAU operatives proceeded to the said store.

A poseur-customer asked to purchase 17 units of thermal scanner for P7,500.00 each or a total of P127,500.00. After handing over the amount, the NBI operatives arrested Beloy.

In the second operation, Distor said NBI-SAU received a report relative to the alleged sale through social media of overpriced gun-type thermal scanner by De Castro, in violation of R.A. No. 7581 (The Price Act) as amended and R.A. 7394 (The Consumer Act).

An agent of the NBI acted as poseur-customer and initiated communication with the suspect, and had to use an account that is a member in the restricted Facebook group, “N95 mask surgical mask supplier”.

The poseur-customer was able to receive a reply which reads: “9,300 per unit. The communication continued and ended with an arrangement for the sale of 150 pieces of thermal scanners for P9,300.00 each, which can be picked up in the subject’s address at 95, 13th street, Mariana, Quezon City.

The suspect introduced herself as a doctor who said that the thermal scanners she is selling are excess of those she donated to hospitals.

Accordingly, Distor said, an entrapment operation was hatched. After coordination with the local police, SAU operatives proceeded to the area and as soon as the poseur-customer handed over the entrapment money to the suspect, declared their authority and placed the suspect under arrest.

De Castro claimed that she is involved in fund-raising efforts that aims to help those in need.

Distor stressed “it is deeply saddening and at the same time disturbing that there are people who would be involved in such a heartless act of profiteering at a critical time such as now.”

Distor emphasized,  “This is the time when people should be displaying acts of kindness in order to help each other to alleviate the struggle we have to face in fighting the dreaded disease, COVID-19, which have claimed thousands of lives throughout the globe.”/Stacy Ang

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