$20 Million Seized in Mattress in Ponzi Scheme Probe

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Federal authorities seized $20 million in cash hidden in a mattress in a Massachusetts apartment this week and arrested a Brazilian national in connection with the sprawling TelexFree fraud case, said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston, the Boston Globe reports. Prosecutors announced the seizure and arrest of Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, 28, on a charge of conspiring to commit money laundering. The case against Rocha stems from the 2014 raid of TelexFree Inc. headquarters in Marlborough, Ma., and the subsequent indictments of co-founders Carlos Wanzeler and James Merrill on charges that they ran the company as a massive pyramid scheme. Victims in the alleged multibillion-dollar fraud participated in what is believed to be the largest Ponzi scheme of all time.

Wanzeler fled to his native Brazil, where he remains a fugitive. Merrill pleaded guilty in October. Prosecutors said someone working on Wanzeler’s behalf contacted an associate for help transferring millions of dollars hidden in the Boston area to Brazil. The associate allegedly arranged with Wanzeler’s nephew to move the funds through Hong Kong before the money landed in Brazilian accounts. Rocha flew to the U.S. this week, and allegedly gave a cooperating witness $2.2 million in a suitcase. That night, federal agents searched an apartment in Westborough, Ma., and seized “a massive stockpile of cash hidden in a box spring,” federal officials said. TelexFree, which nominally sold Internet phone service, grew into a vast global investment swindle, prosecutors have alleged, with investors believing they had $3 billion in their accounts.

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