Leaders of KAPA Investment Scam Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

The masterminds behind Kapa Community Ministry International, Inc. (KAPA), identified as the largest investment scam in Philippine history, have been sentenced to life imprisonment for syndicated estafa. The verdict, delivered by Branch 33 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Butuan City on December 12, marks a significant milestone in the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) relentless pursuit against illegal investment schemes.

The court found KAPA leaders Joel Apolinario, Cristobal R. Baradad, and Joji A. Jusay guilty of eight counts of syndicated estafa, as defined under Article 315 (2)(a) of the Revised Penal Code, in relation to Presidential Decree No. 1689. Apolinario, also known as Pastor Joel, served as the founder and president of KAPA, while Baradad and Jusay were among its incorporators. The trio was ordered to suffer life imprisonment and pay eight counts of actual damages amounting to P195,000 to complainants.

Syndicated estafa involves defrauding another person through false pretenses or fraudulent acts, using fictitious names or falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business, or engaging in imaginary transactions.

The court affirmed that all elements of estafa were present, as Apolinario and his co-accused falsely represented themselves as authorized by the SEC to engage in a profit-making venture. The accused had promised investors a 30% monthly interest for life, luring them into investing their money. The court concurred with the SEC's finding that KAPA's solicitation activities were akin to a Ponzi scheme.

The SEC, which actively built the case against KAPA over its illegal investment-taking activities, issued an advisory against the group in March 2017, highlighting its Ponzi-like characteristics. Subsequent cease and desist orders and the revocation of KAPA's certificate of incorporation followed in 2019.

To further safeguard affected investors, the SEC, in collaboration with the Anti-Money Laundering Council, obtained a Freeze Order from the Court of Appeals in June 2019 to preserve assets linked to KAPA. The SEC continues to caution the public against false information propagated by certain supporters and promoters of KAPA regarding the group's supposed revival.

This landmark decision reinforces the SEC's commitment to eradicating investment scams and protecting the investing public from fraudulent schemes. The judgment serves as a stern warning to those engaged in similar illegal activities and a beacon of hope for the victims seeking justice.

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