Leader of massive pyramid scheme gets 6 years in prison

Massachusetts-based TelexFree shut down in 2014

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WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — The former chief executive of a telecom company prosecutors say was really a massive pyramid scheme that cheated nearly 1 million people worldwide out of nearly $1.8 billion has been sentenced to six years in prison.

James Merrill was also sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Worcester to three years of probation. He pleaded guilty in October to wire fraud and conspiracy charges.

Merrill apologized during a court hearing in which several of his victims talked about losing their life savings.

Prosecutors say Massachusetts-based TelexFree Inc. had few customers and made most of its revenue from people buying into the company with a promise of payouts for posting online ads for it. They were paid with money from new recruits, many of them immigrants.

TelexFree shut down in 2014.

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