The FBI has seized $20 million dollars of cash, literally stuffed in a mattress in Westborough, Massachusetts, linked to the infamous TelexFree pyramid scheme that reportedly raised over $1 billion from over one million gullible participants between January 2012 and March 2014. It is estimated that there were several thousand victims in Portugal involving some US$50 million, many of whom are living in Madira.
Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, 28, was charged in a criminal complaint with one count of conspiring to commit money laundering. Rocha was detained following an appearance today before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein.
According to the US Department of Justice, the money was found after an associate of one the scheme’s founders, Brazilian-native Carlos Wanzeler, was caught trying to launder the ill-gotten cash through Hong Kong to his boss who has been hiding out in Brazil ever since the TelexFree headquarters were raided by FBI agents back in 2014. Unfortunately for him, the person chosen to help with the money laundering scheme was an FBI informant.
The complaint alleges that an intermediary working on Wanzeler’s behalf contacted an associate for help transferring millions of dollars of TelexFree money – still hidden in the greater Boston area – from the United States to Brazil. The associate, who subsequently became a cooperating witness for the government, allegedly arranged with Wanzeler’s nephew in Brazil to launder the cash through Hong Kong, convert it to Brazilian reals, and transfer it to Brazilian accounts.
According to court documents, Rocha, acting as a courier for Wanzeler’s nephew, flew from Brazil to JFK Airport in New York City a few days ago. Yesterday, Rocha met the cooperating witness at a restaurant in Hudson, Mass., and allegedly gave him $2.2 million in a suitcase.
After the meeting, agents followed Rocha to an apartment complex in Westborough, Mass., and later arrested him. That night, federal agents searched an apartment at the Westborough complex and seized a massive stockpile of cash hidden in a box spring. The cash appears to total approximately $20 million.