Still liable even if you return swindled money

QUESTION: Will criminal liability be extinguished if the swindler returns the money he took from the victim?

ANSWER: No, such return cannot extinguish his criminal liability for estafa/swindling.

The Supreme Court has held that, once a crime is consummated, no amount of desistance can remove criminal liability. Even the return of money swindled cannot exculpate the offender since it is the act that is punished as an outrage against the sovereignty of the State. The monetary or any pecuniary loss or damage that must be compensated or returned is merely the civil aspect of the case and it, in no way, diminishes the punishable nature of the act or omission.

The reimbursement or restitution to the offended party of the sums swindled by the petitioner does not extinguish the criminal liability of the latter. It only extinguishes pro tanto the civil liability. Moreover, estafa is a public offense which must be prosecuted and punished by the State on its own motion even though complete reparation had been made for the loss or damage suffered by the offended party.
The consent of the private complainant to petitioner’s payment of her civil liability pendente lite does not entitle the latter to an acquittal. Subsequent payments does not obliterate the criminal liability already incurred. Criminal liability for estafa is not affected by a compromise between petitioner and the private complainant on the former’s civil liability. (People vs. Durano, G.R. No. 175316, 28 March 2007; Recuerdo vs. People, G.R. No. 168217, 27 June 2006, 493 SCRA 517)