Eight alleged members of the “Warla” kidnapping group – most of them transgender women — that lured foreigners with dates with women have been arrested, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said Tuesday.
CIDG chief Police Brig. Gen. Ronald Lee said the group had been victimizing foreign nationals, particularly Asian nationals, since 2018. Some of the victims were POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators) employees, and some were businessmen.
“The kidnapping group composed of particularly transwomen and their partners, or as we call them the Warla criminal group. They have gained notoriety for posing as beautiful women before kidnapping their targets as soon as they agree to meet them on a date,” Lee added in a press conference.
One of the group’s victims was identified as Taiwanese national Michael Lee, who was abducted in Parañaque on September 3 and was rescued by authorities on September 7.
The CIDG said the suspects demanded a sum of money from Michael Lee’s friends in exchange for his freedom. The victim’s friends were able to send P308,000 to five different mobile wallet accounts.
The police tracked the payment transactions and located the suspects, with three of them — Dewie Shaine Collado Garcia, Charlemagne Olunan Vargas, and Christian Paredes — surrendering to authorities.
Five other suspects — Jun Francis Pavillar Villa, Lawrenz Descartin Lingo, Jhonas Grimpula Belonio, Bernard Ty Torres, and Mark Joseph Dagame Pelonio — were arrested in entrapment operations involving illegal weapons.
The Warla kidnapping group – after the word in gay lingo meaning to fight or argue — was formed in 2018. It was led by a certain Mikey Ebol or Mike Collado Ebol, the police said, and operates in southern Metro Manila.
The group has already tallied 14 victims and was able to collect P4.2 million in ransom money, the CIDG said.
The arrested suspects told CIDG operatives they would use the money for their sex reassignment surgery in Thailand.
Manhunts are still ongoing to capture Ebol and other Warla members identified as Lexi Villanueva, Jaine Martinez, Hector Magallanes or “Yanyan,” Erwin Flores or “Marga,” and Mathew San Diego, the CIDG said.
The arrested persons will face complaints of kidnapping and violations of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Law.