Groups of TelexFree members have sued them in bankruptcy court, alleging violations of the federal racketeering (RICO) statute and violations of federal securities laws. TelexFree filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on a Sunday evening in April, just prior to fraud actions filed by securities regulators.
Attorneys Christopher F. Robertson and William J. Hanlon, partners in the Boston office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, entered appearance notices for Nehra, Waak and the firm yesterday.
Also named defendants in some or all of the actions are TelexFree, alleged officers or executives James Merrill, Carlos Wanzeler, Carlos Costa, Steve Labriola and Joe Craft, alleged promoters Sann Rodrigues, Randy Crosby, Santiago De La Rosa and Faith Sloan, and several alleged financial vendors or service-providers.
In a complaint filed May 3, 2014, plaintiffs accused Nehra of counseling TelexFree “on methods to evade United States securities laws that were intended to offer, in part, protection from pyramid Ponzi schemes; all to enrich himself financially and serve his own selfish interests.”
He further was accused of encouraging unknowing TelexFree members to “participate in the evasion of federal and state securities laws.”
Sloan, in response to fraud allegations against her filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said she “believed what [SEC Co-] Defendants Carlos Wanzeler, James Merrill, Steve Labriola and their attorney, Gerald Nehra, had told her, until TelexFree continued to miss the deadlines for the launch of its new products.”
Nehra, Waak and the law firm are not defendants in the SEC action. Nor are they defendants in a TelexFree-related securities action by the Massachusetts Securities Division. Sloan, who later was accused by the SEC of violating the asset freeze against her in the SEC case by sending thousands of dollars to another “program” and transferring her interest in a real-estate trust to her mother, is a longtime HYIP huckster.
In a separate criminal case that alleges wire-fraud conspiracy against Merrill and Wanzeler, Merrill has signaled that he intends to use a defense of reliance on Nehra’s lawyering. The Massachusetts Securities Division has described TelexFree as a “financial pariah” and a combined pyramid- and Ponzi scheme that had gathered more than $1.2 billion. The SEC likewise has accused TelexFree of hatching a billion-dollar pyramid-and Ponzi scheme, saying it was aimed largely at Brazilians and Dominicans.
Nehra, according to plaintiffs suing him in in at least one of the TelexFree-related actions in bankruptcy court, advised at least two other “programs” regulators accused of operating massive pyramid or Ponzi schemes: Zeek Rewards (2012/$850 million) and AdSurfDaily (2008/$119 million).
Sloan is known to have promoted Zeek Rewards. Some HYIP promoters move from scheme to scheme to scheme, piling up purported “earnings” alleged to be fraudulent along the way.
“Attorney Nehra’s extensive experience in multi-level marketing, and particularly his involvement with the Ponzi schemes involving Ad SurfDaily and Zeek Rewards, armed him with the knowledge of what constitutes violations of United States securities law,” plaintiffs alleged. “Indeed, Attorney Nehra was well aware that the use of semantics and obscured phraseology to obfuscate securities laws fails to legitimize TelexFree’s illegal Pyramid Ponzi Scheme.”
Zeek-related actions still are winding their way through the courts. The Zeek “program” was back in the news yesterday, with the court-appointed receiver alleging that an affiliate who appears to have invested $10 filed a claim for $30 million and that a vendor alleged to have aided Zeek wanted nearly $15 million.