Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, 28, whose arrest in January led U.S. authorities to discover $20million hidden under a mattress, is shown during his interrogation
A Brazilian man whose arrest resulted in the discovery of $20million in cash hidden inside a box spring in Massachusetts has pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.
Prosecutors say Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha was part of a scheme to transfer millions of dollars to Brazil by laundering the cash through Hong Kong.
The money was from TelexFree, a defunct internet phone company authorities say was a massive pyramid scheme.
Rocha was arrested in January after agents followed him to an apartment in and found about $20million in cash hidden in a box spring.
The U.S. attorney’s office for Massachusetts says Rocha pleaded guilty in Boston’s federal courthouse Thursday. Rocha is set to be sentenced in December.
Rocha was part of a scheme to transfer millions of dollars to Brazil by laundering the cash through Hong Kong. Authorities found nearly $20million in his box spring in January
Rocha’s attorney has declined to comment.
TelexFree 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, prosecutors have said.
They were paid with money from new recruits, often friends and family of earlier investors.
The money was from TelexFree, a defunct internet phone company authorities say was a massive pyramid scheme
Although initially aimed at Brazilian immigrants to Massachusetts, authorities allege almost one million people worldwide were swindled out of nearly $1.8billion.
TelexFree filed for bankruptcy in 2014, its assets frozen, and its two principals were indicted on federal charges of wire fraud and conspiracy.
One of them, former chief executive James Merrill, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison in March.
The other, Carlos Wanzeler, fled to his native Brazil where he remains, U.S. prosecutors said.
According to court documents, Rocha, acting as a courier for Wanzeler’s nephew, flew from Brazil to New York City a few days ago.
Rocha then met with a cooperating witness at a restaurant in Hudson, Massachusetts, and gave him a suitcase containing $2.2million.
After the meeting, agents followed Rocha to the Westborough apartment and later arrested him.
He could spend up to 20 years in prison and be fined twice the gross gain or loss.