BOSTON, MA --Who would have thought you could hide nearly $20 million of cold hard cash in a box spring?
Federal agents in Westborough, Massachusetts, seized the money earlier this month investigating a massive internet phone service pyramid scheme.
The case goes back to 2014, when investigators searched TelexFree headquarters in Massachusetts.
Carlos Wanzeler, one of the founders of the company, allegedly fled to Brazil after the headquarters of the company was searched. His co-founder, James Merrill, plead guilty last October.
Some two million investors around the world were thought to have supported the $3 billion scheme.
According to a criminal complaint, an intermediary for Wanzeler was trying to transfer 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, Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, 28, acting as a courier for Wanzeler's nephew, flew from Brazil to JFK Airport in New York City. Authorities say 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.