Friday, October 20, 2006

"Magic Cheese" Hoax Hits Thousands in Chile and Peru

International gang led by a french-belgian woman tricks 28,000 citizens.

On July 17,2006, the Chilean police arrested Victor Mella and Fernando Jara, two Chilean men that acted as agents of a firm called "Fermex". Mella and Jara have been accused of taking part in a massive pyramidal fraud that duped 6000 Chileans and 21,000 Peruvians . Until today the police have confiscated approximately US$ 4 million, but many of the victims fear that they will never recover their investments again. The story began four years ago in Peru where a French woman identified as Giselle van Erpen (a.k.a "Madame Gil") set up a firm named "Labomax". The fraud consisted in selling people a pack of "Yo Flex", a powder that according to Giselle van Erpen would ferment milk into a special cheese. Giselle said that this "Magic Cheese" was the latest fashion in France, where women used it as a skin cosmetic. Also a partner of Madame Gil, an African man known as the "Doctor" claimed that in his continent the cheese was used as a food supplement. The fraud was discovered in Peru, but Madame Gil and the Doctor escaped from that country, only to appear two years ago in Chile, where they formed "Fermex" and continued with their hoax.
In Chile the pack of "Yo Flex" would be sold at US$500, but scientific analysis determined that the powder was a dairy ferment worth only US$ 4. Mella and Jara told the victims that Yo Flex should be mixed with milk and that the cheese should be returned to Fermex that would export it to France and Africa. The agents promised the people that thay would double their money in three months. Initially Fermex did pay the victims the profits, but this was a ploy to convince more people to join and invest their money. Soon many citizens were investing sums ranging from US$5000 to US$40,000. Many would sell their cars, property or get bank loans to buy the packs of "Yo Flex".
One of the most affected areas was Coltauco, a rural town of 17,000 citizens located 100 kms to the south of Santiago, the Chilean capital. In March of this year, 200 of Coltauco´s citizens took part in a dinner in honor of Madame Gil that was described by the owner of the restaurant as an "attractive and tall blonde woman that spoke with a strong French accent."
It seems that a few weeks ago Giselle and the Doctor decided that they had made enough profit and have disappeared from sight and it seems that worst is still to come, since Fermex had branches in 17 Chilean cities. A few weeks later a Chilean TV crew discovered the woman in Paris, confronted her but of course she denied everything, now she has gone into hiding and Interpol is after her, will they arrest Madame GIL? Now many jokes are being made about these poor people that were tricked.

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