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Brazilian who led U.S. to $17 million in cash under mattress to plead guilty

October 13, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Brazilian who led U.S. to $17 million in cash under mattress to plead guilty

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A Brazilian whose apprehension led U.S. authorities to discover $17 million in cash concealed under a mattress is expected to plead guilty after being charged with money laundering in one of the most massive pyramid schemes in history.

Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, who prosecutors allege tried to help get millions of dollars out of the U.S. that a co-founder of TelexFree Inc left behind when he fled the country, is set to enter his plea in Boston federal court on Wednesday.

Rocha, who faced conspiracy and money laundering charges, has been in custody without bail since he was arrested back in January.

His case resulted from an investigation into TelexFree, a Massachusetts-based business that sold voice-over-internet phone service and that was established by James Merrill, a U.S. citizen, and Carlos Wanzeler, a native of Brazil.

Prosecutors said TelexFree was a pyramid plot, making little to no cash selling its service while taking in millions from thousands of clients who paid to sign up to be “promoters” and post advertisements online.

Authorities said 28-year-old Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha was arrested after $20 million (above)

The company collapsed in 2014, causing over $3 billion in losses of nearly 1.89 million people across the world, according to US News and World Report.

Merrill was arrested in 2014 and was sentenced in March to six years behind bars after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy and fraud.

In 2014, however, Wanzeler, fled to Brazil, where he could not be extradited. They added that in the process, he left behind tens of millions he laundered from TelexFree accounts.

In 2015, Leonardo Casula Francisco, his nephew, asked a cooperating witness to assist with transferring money out of the U.S.

The two agreed that someone would be sent to the U.S. to deliver the cash in increments to the witness, who would transfer it to accounts in Hong Kong where it would then be sent to Brazil.

In December, Casula sent Rocha to the U.S. to deliver cash to the witness.

Prosecutors said that after meeting in a parking lot where Rocha gave the witness $2.2 million, federal agents followed Rocha to an apartment complex where he was arrested.

Following the arrest, he brought agents to the apartment, leading them to discover $17 million hidden under a mattress.

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