(Adds details on charges in Brazil)
By Nate Raymond
BOSTON, March 8 A second Brazilian man has been
charged with conspiring to launder money linked to a massive
fraud out of the United States in a case that led to the
discovery of $17 million in cash under a mattress in a
Leonardo Casula Francisco was charged on Tuesday in an
indictment filed in federal court in Boston that also named
another Brazilian, Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, who was arrested
Casula, 30, remains in Brazil, the U.S. Attorney's Office in
Boston said. A lawyer for Casula could not be identified.
Rocha's attorney, Raymond Sayeg, said his client plans to plead
The case stemmed from an investigation into TelexFree, a
Massachusetts-based company that sold voice-over-internet
telephone service and was founded by James Merrill, a U.S.
citizen, and Carlos Wanzeler, a Brazilian who is Casula's uncle.
Prosecutors said TelexFree was a pyramid scheme, making
little to no money selling its service while taking in millions
of dollars from thousands of people who paid to sign up to be
"promoters" and post ads online for it.
TelexFree filed for bankruptcy in 2014. Prosecutors said
965,225 victims in the United States, Brazil and various other
countries lost $1.76 billion when it collapsed.
Merrill, who was arrested in May 2014, is scheduled to be
sentenced on March 22 after pleading guilty to conspiracy and
wire fraud charges in October.
Wanzeler fled to Brazil in 2014 and could not be extradited.
In February, federal prosecutors in the Brazilian state of
Espirito Santo filed charges against 22 people for their
involvement with TelexFree, including Wanzeler and Casula.
According to Tuesday's indictment, Casula in mid-2015 asked
a cooperating witness to help transfer cash earned through the
fraud that was hidden in the greater Boston area out of the
The pair agreed someone would be sent to the United States
to deliver the money in increments to the witness, who would
send it to accounts in Hong Kong where it would be transferred
to Brazil, prosecutors said.
In December, Casula sent Rocha to the United States to
deliver money to the witness, the indictment said.
Prosecutors said that after a Jan. 4 meeting in a parking
lot where Rocha gave the witness $2.2 million in a suitcase,
federal agents followed Rocha to a Westborough, Massachusetts,
They returned to it after arresting Rocha to find $17
million hidden under a mattress, prosecutors said.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, additional reporting by
Stephen Eisenhammer in Rio de Janeiro; editing by Scott Malone
and Jonathan Oatis)