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Press Release

Pyramid Scheme Promoter Arrested on Visa Fraud Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts

BOSTON – A Florida man involved in several pyramid schemes was arrested on visa fraud charges after entering the United States from a trip abroad.  

Sanderley Rodrigues De Vasconcelos, 43, of Davenport, Fla., was charged in U.S. District Court in Boston on Saturday, May 16, 2015, with fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents.  He made an initial appearance in Newark, NJ on May 18th, and was detained pending meeting conditions of release set by a federal magistrate judge there.

According to the charging documents, Rodrigues presented his green card to Customs and Border Protection Officers on May 3, 2015, at Logan Airport, knowing that he obtained that document based upon false statements to immigration officials.  Rodrigues was arrested at Newark International Airport when he returned to the United States from Israel on May 16, 2015, after a trip abroad.  Following a detention hearing on Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Newark, NJ, Rodrigues was released on conditions, including the surrender of his passport and the passports belonging to his family members, a $200,000 secured bond, 24-hour electronic monitoring, and home confinement.

In 2006, Rodrigues first came to the attention of federal authorities when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued him for owning and operating Universo Fone Club and defrauding investors of millions of dollars.  More recently, Rodrigues was cited by the SEC for his role in promoting TelexFree, a pyramid scheme that purported to sell a voice over Internet service.  In July 2014, the owners of TelexFree, James Merrill and Carlos Wanzeler, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and several counts of wire fraud.

The charging statute provides a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cory S. Flashner of Ortiz’s Worcester Branch Office.

The details contained in the charging document are allegations.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated May 26, 2015