Hundreds of thousands lost by shutdown of Mabini Express

Jesus and Teresita Mallari are wanted by police for fraud. (The Philippine Reporter)

Toronto, Ontario

Warrant of arrest for owners Jesus & Teresita Mallari

By Ted Alcuitas

A nation-wide arrest warrant has been issued for Jesus Mallari, 66, and Teresita Mallari, 69.York Regional Police issued the warrant for the owners of Mabini Express for defrauding customers of an estimated $300,000 in money transfers.

The company has been in operation for over 25 years in Thornhill, Ontario and was trusted by its customers who sent monies to their relatives in the Philippines.

According to media reports most of the victims were caregivers and labourers who have saved money to be able to send money back home to the Philippines.

The warrant is only for Canada and there is no warrant for the U.S., according to a police officer.

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, reports The Philippine Reporter.

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.”


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)

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.’”

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