The police in Massachusetts have discovered a $20 million stash hidden away in a mattress at a home in Westborough. The money has been linked to the Telexfree ponzi scheme which police had been investigating for several years, the Boston Magazine reports.
Investigators were able to establish that the money was intended for laundering to Brazil through Hong Kong, where Carlos Wanzeler, Telexfree co-founder had fled in early 2014 following a raid at the scheme’s headquarters in Marlborough.
The police had earlier arrested a man whom Wanzeler had recruited to smuggle the money out of the US for onward transmission to his home country in Brazil. The man had received $2.2 million in a suitcase given to him by one 28-year-old Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, Wanzeler’s nephew.
The mule gave information on Rocha, and the police trailed him to an apartment in Westborough where further search yielded the $20 million stashed inside a mattress. Rocha now faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The original plan was to launder the cash to Hong Kong and then convert it into Brazilian currency before paying it into Brazilian bank accounts where Wanzeler would be able to access the fund. The US government has not succeeded yet in getting Wanzeler arrested in Brazil and sent back to the US for conviction.
The police had earlier arrested Telefree co-founder James Merrill in 2014, and following his indictment, he is awaiting sentencing for engaging in a dubious ponzi scheme and other related money laundering charges.
The Telexfree ponzi scheme operated with a phony long-distance phone plan company which convinced people to invest with the promise of earning thousands in rewards via posting ads. People were also asked to invite family and friends to the scheme, but most of the investors never got their money back and it dawned on them that they had been scammed. Immigrant communities in Massachusetts were most hit with the advance fee fraud.