In September 2015, news of the “world’s first 3D-printed hotel suite” made its way to the public. Countless news outlets, from Forbes to USA Today, covered the story, allowing it to proliferate across the globe. Just two months later, however, another piece of news failed to gain the same traction. Lewis Yakich, the head of the project and main shareholder in the Lewis Grand Hotel, had gone missing. Yakich, a former engineer with Intel, eventually landed himself in the Philippines after a corporate-mandated vacation led him to area. In Angeles City, located in the Philippine state of Pampanga where his mother’s family is from, the engineer recognized the need for quality hotels for travelers in the area. In turn, Yakich left Intel, sold his real estate in the U.S., and established a business in Pampanga called the Yakich-Cuizon Corporation. Over time, the corporation grew to encompass a combination of six successful hotels and nightclubs there, altogether worth about USD$50 million. While he was the majority shareholder in the company, Yakich could not do it alone and enlisted the help of business partners Angelo Mendez, Alvin Bautista, and Lenny Cuizon. To establish the requisite number of board members legally required to incorporate a business, the entrepreneur turned to his brother Edward Yakich Jr. and half-brother Randy Buan. The business was a successful one, with the partners continually inventing new ways to expand and develop. This led the company to the idea of 3D printing. Andrey Rudenko had recently made news for 3D printing a castle in his own backyard in Minnesota. The inventor had plans to print a concrete home as well, when he was approached by Yakich to 3D print the hotel suite in Pampanga. The entire structure for the 130-square-meter (approximately 1,400-square-foot) suite was completed in just 100 hours and included two bedrooms, a living room, and a jacuzzi room with 3D-printed spa, with electrical, plumbing, and other non-3D-printed elements added afterwards. It was not long after the structure’s completion that Yakich disappeared, a fact corroborated by local news sources and blogs. On the last night that any of his friends, family, or partners had seen him, Yakich sent text messages to his business partners saying that he was meeting with a man named Skipper Pineda. Skipper Pineda is a retired United States Marine who, according to a source affiliated with Yakich-Cuizon Corporation, claimed to be the step-nephew of Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda, a suspected gambling lord and husband of Lilia Pineda, governor of Pampanga. Bong Pineda has been investigated by the Philippine senate for leading the state’s numbers racket, known as jueteng. The source, who chooses to remain anonymous for safety reasons, worked closely with Yakich and says that Yakich had approached Skipper Pineda for a possible deal on a loan. On the night of his disappearance, Yakich’s girlfriend, as well as Bautista and another partner of the company all reported seeing Yakich leave for a meeting with Pineda. Yakich later texted his girlfriend that he would pick her up to attend a friend’s engagement party at Yakich’s nightclub, High Society Disco, but, according to his girlfriend, never showed up. However, while the meeting was underway, Yakich messaged his partner Baustista, saying, “This looks shady.” Over the next few days, Yakich’s partners received various mysterious messages from him, but never actually saw him, before finally receiving a text from his number saying that not only was he leaving for Thailand, but that he would forfeit his shares in the company to Pineda and Phillip MacArthur, general manager of the Penthouse Hotel. The anonymous source reported, “We all found it odd that Phillip MacArthur was now a majority shareholder because he was not very good as GM of the Penthouse Hotel and was producing low sales. In fact, there was a vote coming up on whether we were going to replace him or not.” Moreover, his business partners had known Yakich for more than a decade and considered his sudden rash decision as extremely out of character for him. Yakich’s girlfriend too thought this was incredibly suspicious, saying that he could not have left the country as she had both his U.S. and Philippine passports, as well as his credit cards, because they were about to go on vacation to Hong Kong Disneyland. Six days after Yakich went missing, his business partners and girlfriend went to the local police and gave sworn statements regarding his disappearance. They also turned to the US Embassy and the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine equivalent of the FBI, to track down their friend. So far, the anonymous source notes, nothing has come of it. What has happened, however, is that Edward Yakich Jr. and Randy Buan, Yakich’s brother and half-brother, have taken over the Yakich-Cuizon Corporation properties. The source says that Yakich’s half-brother Randy Buan and two other men, including one dressed in the uniform of the Philippine National Police, held a meeting regarding Yakich’s corporate assets. As family of the primary shareholder, Buan was able to illegally split control of the company between himself and Edward Yakich Jr. through the intimidation of the other partners. The source adds that, because the brothers had carried guns to the meeting, the other partners had no choice but to acquiesce. Such a claim may not be hard to believe, as Randy Buan and Eddie Yakich had previously been accused of attacking Jonard Quiero, the food and beverages manager of The Lewis Grand Hotel, who filed attempted murder and threat accusations against the two brothers. In a sworn affidavit, Quiero said that the two, along with a bodyguard, attacked him before he ran into the hotel, where hotel employees helped him hide in an office. Soon, Buan entered the office with what Quintero said was a .45 caliber pistol, a fact corroborated by two hotel accountants. If the new self-proclaimed owners actually do behave as described, Yakich’s properties may be in dangerous hands. After Yakich disappeared in November 2015, Christian Michael Morman, a German national and partner and major shareholder in the Penthouse Hotel, was abducted at gunpoint in January 2016. According to the source, after Morman had his shares in the hotel revoked by the Yakich’s brothers, Morman left on vacation with his girlfriend. Returning to the heavily monitored Clark Air Base, Morman was approached by a car owned by the Lewis Grand Hotel and offered a ride to the Penthouse Hotel by the Lewis Grand Hotel driver. Despite the fact that Morman no longer had shares in the company and Yakich’s brothers now owned all of the properties, Morman and his girlfriend accepted the ride. The source says that, some short distance after the final Clark Air Base checkpoint, a silver Toyota Grandia van and a motorcycle blocked their vehicle’s path. Two of the three suspects in the vehicles pointed their weapons at Morman and pulled him into the van. Morman’s girlfriend and driver reported the incident to the local police. The source claims that, after the incident, Morman’s driver fled Pampanga for several months, only to return to work at the Lewis Grand Hotel some time later. While the van was later found abandoned at the side of the road, Morman, like Yakich, has not been seen since. The story is not an isolated incident in Pampanga, where kidnappings are, unfortunately, a regular occurrence. With reports of police shootouts with “kidnap-rob groups” and abductions of expatriates in the state, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has actually conducted investigations into the abduction of foreigners in the country. Local news has even suggested that Philippine politicians may occasionally be involved, with the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) looking into one specific member of the country’s Liberal Party for being a party to the kidnapping of a businesswoman in Angeles City. Though Yakich’s former partners are still pushing the local police to investigate further and are suing his brothers for funds associated with their investments, it is reported that they no longer have any control over the properties. The source does not have faith that the local police will follow up, instead saying that the police actually spend time at the hotels and nightclubs, getting free accommodations and refreshments. The Philippine government has, however, undergone a recent change, with newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte vowing to fight crime and corruption in the country. Duterte initiated the country’s first 911 line in August and will open up a line dedicated to informing the government of local crimes. “The Punisher”, as Duterte has been nicknamed, is not taking a light handed approach to the war on illegal drugs. Instead, he has urged citizens to kill suspected drug users and dealers, while his police operations top 300 deaths in July alone. Despite the violence that the new president has encouraged, the source hopes that he is serious about solving crime and corruption. For this reason, the source has turned to the media, believing that, just as news outlets were quick to cover Yakich’s success in 3D printing the world’s first hotel suite, they might also bring attention to the crime-ridden state of Pampanga and help to drive the new government to investigate his disappearance.
November 27, 2017
May 20, 2019