BULLETIN: (8TH UPDATE 3:57 P.M. EDT U.S.A.) James Merrill, the former president of the TelexFree Ponzi- and pyramid scheme, has been sentenced to six years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Hillman ordered the sentence, which was four years less than what prosecutors in the office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb of the District of Massachusetts sought.
Robert Goldstein, Merrill’s lawyer, argued that his client deserved no more than a year.
The PP Blog is awaiting comment from prosecutors. (See below.) Also see the Boston Globe’s early story on Merrill’s sentence.
Merrill, 55, of Ashland, Mass., also was sentenced to three years’ supervised release after he completes his sentence and agreed to forfeit about $140 million and other assets, Weinreb’s office said. He was given until May 15 to report to prison. The former TelexFree officer pleaded guilty in October 2016 to eight counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.
“Despite knowing that Telexfree was a pyramid scheme, Mr. Merrill profited for years at the expense of the hard-working individuals who invested in the fraudulent company,” Weinreb said in a statement. “For the hundreds of thousands of investors, here and around the world, who were taken in by the lies promoted by Mr. Merrill and Telexfree, today’s sentence provides a measure of justice. Mr. Merrill’s greed damaged the livelihoods of thousands of people who were simply struggling to make ends meet.”
Added Matthew Etre, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston:
“While the harm and damage James Merrill caused by stealing more than $3 billion from innocent investors can never be repaired, his victims in more than 240 countries around the world can take some small measure of satisfaction that he is now looking at six years in federal prison and a substantial forfeiture as repayment for his crimes. HSI special agents will continue to aggressively investigate those who seek to profit by taking advantage of others.”
James Merrill, Former President of Telexfree, sentenced to 6 years in prison for billion dollar pyramid scheme https://t.co/ZHtbEFlnZH
— U.S. Attorney MA (@DMAnews1) March 22, 2017
Separately, police action against TelexFree figures in Brazil continued today, with Brazilian prosecutors formally announcing criminal charges against 22 people accused of operating a clandestine financial institution. (Google translation from Portuguese to English here.)
Two of the Brazilian defendants — Carlos Costa and Carlos Wanzeler — are known business associates of Merrill. Wanzeler fled the United States for Brazil when investigators were closing in on TelexFree in 2014, U.S. prosecutors said.
There are at least two major investigations of TelexFree under way in Brazil, including one about money-laundering. It was announced earlier this month.
More . . .