By Mariano “Anong” Santos
PINOY Editor/Publisher


..."Is a Con Game Playing out at Rizal Center?
...continued from home page


The list of shenanigans is long. But in view of the busy FB postings hailing the August 19, 2017 “Rizal Fest” as some sort of an unprecedented successful event for the beleaguered Rizal Center, it will help us all to see her report in perspective. (After all, Alex Gonzales, Rey Sapnu, Ka Miniong –among others--have had genuine blockbuster events at the Center during their respective terms as FACC president.)

It is relevant to recall the plight of the hundreds in the Chicago area who doled out an average of $3K each to be one of the 14 “passengers” in an “airplane” with the pilot getting the first salary of around $40k.

The flight of greed caught the community with wild fire. Nursing supervisors playing “pilots” to their medical staffers required them to be passengers to be “passengers.” Even attorneys swore by the game pitching instant prosperity to their clients.

Even a head of a business organization was fleeced not once but twice—a testament how slick his pilot was. A lot of sorry passengers got stuck in the tarmac of gullibility—poorer than when they checked in into this old scheme of Ponzi, aka—Pyramid game. That was in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

At least for the Chicago area, one of the main culprits of this Ponzi scheme now acts as the handler of Elaine Lehman at the Rizal Center. Another big player then was Julita Julian—who made Dr. Rufino Crisostomo and Veronica Leighton as directors of her now defunct Northwestern Institute of Health and Technology.

That brings us now, folks, to what is happening at the Rizal Center. Top of the news from there is the naming of the Rizal Center’s Maharlika Hall into “Dr. Rufino Crisostomo Hall.”

There are many issues shrouding the future of this building from which The Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago (FACC), a federation of various Fil-Am organizations has made a headquarter. However, Elaine Lehman, who arrived at the center only last January of this year, dismissed the fact of the FACC being a federation.


But let us for a while concentrate on the curious renaming of the Maharlika Hall. Rich people make endowments to their alma maters, hospitals, library or sports arenas in exchange for naming a pavilion at a reputable civic facility after the donor or the donor’s designated loved one. The recipient makes sure the funds they are getting are clean. Well, have you heard about a “Don Corleone Chapel?”

But now we have a “Dr. Rufino Crisostomo Hall” at the Rizal Center. A smaller room there was named “Paciano Rizal” room, thanks to the donation of his great grandnephew, Dr. Ramon Lopez, a man of honor who quietly does humanitarian works and a recent president of the Philippine Medical Association of Chicago.

In the case of Dr. Crisostomo, it is problematic. Dr. Crisostomo during his incumbency as FACC president played deaf to the pleadings of his fellow FACC officers, notably his close friend, Carmen Esctacio, and this writer (as a fellow Knight of Rizal), advising him not to allow Julita Julian and her school to be a major tenant of the Rizal Center.

Julian has just been evicted by the Archdiocese of Chicago for non-payment of rent at the facilities of Lourdes Catholic Church at Ashland and Leland in Chicago. Close to six figures were left unpaid. This was revealed to Dr. Crisostomo. More importantly, he was warned that he was in a conflict of interest situation being a director with Julian’s school. Dr. Crisostomo went ahead and let Julian in and soon enough the FACC was spending scare funds in evicting Julian who was over $50K in arrears.


Dr. Crisostomo was also very visible during the huge Haiyan fundraising in 2013 at the Center. Although, he claimed that he was only assisting he was never shy being the face of the well-publicized initiative. Eventually, money collected that was no less than $15K, never reached the Leyte typhoon victims. Crisostomo and company claimed they were victims of a woman trickster from Lake County.

Then there are the KORs. Of the six organizations that were holdover-members of the original FACC structure, the Chicago Chapter of the Knights of Rizal in which Dr. Crisostomo is a member, was one of the most devastated groups since Lehman took charge of the Rizal Center.

She emptied without adequate notice and hearing the Rizaliana Library—a long source pride of the FACC and a showcase to visiting dignitaries. It is also a resource to students and scholars. The Chicago KOR now keeps the important collections in a public storage.

Similar shabby treatment was accorded to the remaining groups—notably the Marian devotees, seniors and the Joy Dance groups. These all happened with the complete consent of Dr. Crisostomo. Lehman, who acted beyond the scope of her responsibilities spelled out in the FACC constitution, used intimidation and false representation to get rid of all the FACC officials who for many years have volunteered their time and resources to keep the Rizal Center afloat.


Lehman in her press releases described herself as a hardworking volunteer. But FACC stalwart, Mae Lant, revealed to this writer that Lehman demanded that she and her husband , Ali, should be allowed to take residence in the Center.

Lant expressed her reservations. She told Lehman that this was something that she did not put upfront before the FACC board of directors when she consented to be a “volunteer” director. Lant also expressed her reservation about the legality of making the Center a house to live in. Suddenly, Mae Lant stopped receiving notices of FACC meetings.

(NOTE: A question was also raised in the “new’ FACC Board about the issue of Elaine and Ari Lehman taking up residency at the Center. At its condition and with regard to zoning, the arrangement could be in violation of City ordinances.)

Lehman relentlessly worked to change FACC papers bringing only Dr. Crisostomo in the picture. Soon enough, Dr. Crisostomo revealed he has terminal cancer, adding that he has a few months left. He also admitted to writing checks regularly for the FACC. But it was not clear if he wrote them to the FACC or to an individual.

His son Glenn came home to visit his dad to express his fears that someone might be taking advantage of old man because of his health condition. Dr. Crisostomo brushed off his son’s concerns. Who is accountable for the money he gives? For what purpose is the money is being used? Will it be used to replace the broken furnace? A new one has an estimated cost of $20k. Will it fix the antiquated electric circuits that often go short? Will it repave the pot-holed parking space? Dr. Crisostomo has no clear answers.

The Mark

Dr. Crisostomo became the text book example of the MARK in a confidence game. The fact that he openly expressed his desire to be remembered well after he passes made him a conspicuous target. He requested friends and this writer to be generous in their eulogies when the “time” comes.

That brings us back to the “Rufino Crisostomo Hall.” Who decided that he deserves that honor? What is the deal here? Exactly how much money was involved here? Did Lehman get a share? If she did, how much? Is she now an employee of the Center? If yes, are employment and personal taxes being paid? Proper disclosures are needed. FACC does not need additional problems.

Eliodore Faypon, a dear, long and close friend of Dr. Crisostomo had to decline his invitation to attend the “honoring”—of renaming the Maharlika Hall. Another close friend, Carmen Estacio also begged off not to be present. In not so many words, Carmen believes this event of “honoring” the man she knew for many years at the center of the last Aug, 19 is all a sham.

A man, like Dr. Crisostomo, so worked out about his legacy, is, indeed, an easy mark. Con artists need not make their pitch to a person in this kind of desperate situation. The dupe goes to them begging. What is disturbing is there are people presently around Dr. Crisostomo who should know better. But then again, they, themselves, perhaps, are in need of being rescued from their own misplaced trust.
It never fails. We all fall for it. Fools or wise, we succumb to bite the bait in the con game, one time or another. Trust-- so delicate to have and to share.



Featured Sponsors



completely free