Vietnamese says she, too, was drugged, robbed by Manila’s ‘Ativan Gang’
MANILA, Philippines — Another victim of what could be a robbery syndicate preying on foreign tourists in Manila has come forward, telling a similar tale of its method in luring unsuspecting tourists.
“It is the same woman who drugged me. I could not forget her face,” Vietnamese Tram Nguyen, 33, a female sales trainer for a cement company, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, after reading the story of Portuguese artist Luís Simões and his ‘selfie’ picture with his alleged robbers.
Simões, whose plan to travel in five continents in five years and sketch places and people was well publicized in Portugal, unwittingly took a selfie with three of his robbers, which is now being used by the police to track the suspects down.
On December 22, Simões lost his valuables including his debit card to members of the robbery syndicate, which the police have tagged as “Ativan Gang,” for its notoriety in using tranquilizers to knock out its potential victims. The robbers were able to move P40,000 (USD 1,000) from his debit card account at the time that he was unconscious.
Nguyen, who is now in Vietnam, recounted over the phone a similar story, and pointed at the elder woman at the rightmost in Simoes’ picture as one of the five people who robbed her on July 11, 2015 at 3:30 p.m.
She said she was just outside Intramuros, looking for a place to catch a jeepney when three women approached her.
“They told me they were from the countryside and were just visiting Manila for a couple of days. They invited me to have lunch with them,” she said.
Nguyen said she felt comfortable with the “friendly” Filipino women so she agreed to join them .
The women took her to a place where they could grab lunch and sing in a karaoke, exactly what happened to Simoes.
But Nguyen could no longer remember the name of the bar and where it was located.
“I drank my own drink but I was sharing the food with them,” she said.
At that point, she said she felt sleepy and took a nap for 10 to 15 minutes.
She was led to a car, where she found two more people who introduced themselves as the old woman’s brother-in-law and her sister.
“They treated me with a mango shake. I was so tired to be aware of the risk,” Nguyen said.
They gave her another bottle of soda.
“After drinking half of it, I passed out,” Nguyen said.
Partly conscious, she heard someone call a taxi for her. “I felt that someone took my arm to help me get off the van and put me in a taxi,” she said.
She said she was not completely awake at the time and remembered getting off at her friend’s condominium in Vito Cruz, Manila.
She lost her valuables including an iPhone 6, credit card and cash amounting to P4,000. She also found out through her bank that the robbers tried to withdraw money from her credit card at least three times but failed.
She said fortunately, her bank in Vietnam blocked her card after the robbers entered a wrong PIN three times.
“I think I met the same group and experienced the same scenario,” Nguyen said, but lamented that she failed to file a report with the police.
“I realized I missed the chance because I was in the Philippines only for three days,” she said.
She said the first thing she did was go to the hospital to make sure she did not have injuries. “It terrified me so much,” she said.
Meanwhile, Simões said he has been getting private messages in the social media since the story was published last week.
“I’m overwhelmed and touched by all the private messages I’ve been receiving from the Filipinos,” Simões said in his Facebook post.
“As many have said, my experience should not generalize the people of a country. My experience is exactly it, mine,” he said.
He said his story could serve as a warning to those coming to Manila and possibly bring some changes in how authorities could make Manila safe for tourists. SFM
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