BOSTON (WWLP) – Federal agents seized about $20 million in Massachusetts this week after an investigation into a massive pyramid scheme involving Brazil.
According to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz from the District of Massachusetts, agents arrested 28-year-old Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha at an apartment complex in Westborough, Mass., late Wednesday.
Rocha is being charged with conspiring to commit money laundering in connection to a massive TelexFree, Inc. pyramid scheme. In April of 2014, federal agents searched the TelexFree headquarters in Marlborough, Mass.; however, according to the criminal complaint, co-founder of the company, Carlos Wanzeler, left the same day to Brazil and hasn’t returned.
In July of 2014, Wanzeler and the other co-founder of TelexFree, James Merrill, were indicted on charges that they ran a massive pyramid scheme. Merrill pleaded guilty to the charges in October of 2016 and is awaiting sentencing.
According to court documents, Wanzeler allegedly attempted to move millions of the TelexFree money, which was hidden in the Boston area, from the United States to Brazil. With the help of an associate, who became a cooperating witness for the government, an arrangement was allegedly made to launder the money through Hong Kong, and transfer it to Brazilian accounts.
Court documents say Rocha flew from Brazil to the United States and met with the cooperating witness at a restaurant in Hudson, Mass., on Wednesday. During the meeting, Rocha allegedly gave him $2.2 million in a suitcase.
Federal agents followed Rocha to an apartment complex and later arrested him. The court documents stated that the agents found the $20 million hidden in a box spring when they searched the apartment at a Westborough complex.
Rocha was in U.S. District Court on Thursday, and was held afterwards. He faces about 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine or “twice the gross gain or loss,” Ortiz said.