Arrest warrants out for Mallari couple

Top News Jan 11, 2019 at 5:46 pm

MallariBy Irish Mae Silvestre
The Philippine Reporter

TORONTO — York Regional Police has confirmed that they have issued an arrest warrant for Jesus Mallari, 66, and Teresita Mallari, 69. The couple has been accused of defrauding customers of around $300,000 through their money transfer business, Mabini Express.

“It’s still an ongoing investigation,” said York Regional Police Constable Errol Dixon of the Organized Crime Bureau, Major Fraud Unit.

When asked if there’s also a warrant for the couple in the U.S., he said that, for now, the warrant only applies to Canada. “At this point, there’s [no warrant in the US],” he said. “I won’t say that there won’t be.”

The Mallaris were the subject of headlines last year when they unexpectedly shut down their store, leaving several regular customers in the dark about their money.

One of the victims was Gina Bronola, a caregiver based in North York. When her employer gave her $3,700 as a gift, she sent the money to her brother and sister-in-law through Mabini Express on January 5, 2018. The money was meant to be used for their small business in the Philippines selling clothes and bags.

But, according to her sister-in-law, the money never arrived.

When Bronola went to the store to inquire about the delay, she found the place empty and a note on the door stating, “Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are no longer open for business.”

After seeing the note, Bronola said she felt she would faint.

“I didn’t know what to do, where to go or who to ask for help,” she said.

Customers with receipts of unremitted funds, from left: Rennel Mina, Delia Doria, Jocelyn Saludares, Manuel Gaspar, Natividad Vina and Nora Lagmay.        (FILE PHOTO: Group photo courtesy of Cheol Joon Baek/Post City Magazines)

Customers with receipts of unremitted funds, from left: Rennel Mina, Delia Doria, Jocelyn Saludares, Manuel Gaspar, Natividad Vina and Nora Lagmay. (FILE PHOTO: Group photo courtesy of Cheol Joon Baek/Post City Magazines)

Outside the store, she encountered retirees who were also wondering about the money they had sent to pay for a relative’s emergency medication in the Philippines.

Bronola took to Facebook to write about her experience and friends quickly shared her post. Through social media, Bronola said that she had met with a couple who had lost as much as $100,000 through the money remittance company.

Another couple, Manuel and Norma Gaspar, lost the $10,000 cash that they had transferred last year on January 6; the money was intended for repairs on a relative’s typhoon-damaged home. Their daughter, Michelle Lucas, stated that her mother, who works for a fruit salad company, and her father, who works for an automotive company, had been saving the money for years.

“What’s really heartbreaking is that these people don’t come from money,” she said in an interview with The Philippine Reporter last year. “They are nannies, caregivers, and personal support workers.”

Other victims soon found each other on Facebook and, Lucas, sensing that the group needed a way to connect with one another, started a Facebook group called #MabiniExpress Victims.
“Some of the victims who paid with checks or debit have been able to reimburse their money,” she said. “A majority of their victims, especially the ones who had paid with cash, there’s still no retribution.”

In the meantime, it’s been a waiting game.

“We’re just waiting because that’s what we’ve been told [to do],” she said. “They’re still in hiding; we don’t know where they are.

“I think we’re just waiting for the criminal case to unfold because, once the criminal case has been laid, it’s easier for us to take [the Mallaris] to small claims court.”
When asked how she feels about the arrest warrant for the Mallaris, Bronola said, “Thank God. Sana mahuli sila [I hope they get caught].”

As a result of her experience, she said that she no longer sends money through small, local remittance companies. Instead, she now prefers using Western Union, money transfers or iRemit.

Hindi na, super nagka trauma ako mag padala dyan [No longer, I was super traumatized],” said Bronola.

Lucas noted that the Mallaris’ victims aren’t just their former customers in Canada but also their customers’ family and friends back home.

“I still get emails from victims in the Philippines even now,” she said. “They say, ‘Do you know [what’s happening]? Do you have an update? Because they did this to us, too.’”