An effort to attract people to invest in a mobile phone service bears striking resemblances to the alleged pyramid scheme involving a local company known as TelexFree, Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin said Tuesday.
According to Galvin, Sann Rodrigues, who was once a top TelexFree promoter, is now promoting iFreex, enticing investors to pre-register with promises of a new iPhone.
Headquartered in Marlborough, TelexFree sold cheap Internet phone service for people with relatives abroad, many of them Brazilians and Brazilian immigrants. A US grand jury has charged several TelexFree executives with nine counts of fraud and conspiracy in TelexFree’s alleged $1 billion global pyramid scheme. TelexFree is now in bankruptcy.
James Merrill, TelexFree’s former chief executive, is at home awaiting trial on bail. His business partner, Carlos Wanzeler, left the country for Brazil and is considered a fugitive by US authorities.
Rodrigues, whose whereabouts are unknown, has been charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the TelexFree case, Galvin’s office said.
On his Facebook page, Rodrigues, a former Revere resident, claimed that iFreex would be the new TelexFree, Galvin’s office said.
“iFreex appears to be nothing more than a rebranded TelexFrree fraud for mobile phones,” Galvin said in a statement. “Everyone, but especially those in the Brazilian and other immigrant communities that are the target of these pitches, need to be skeptical of any scheme that offers guaranteed returns with little or no effort. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in these pyramid schemes in the past year.”
Rodrigues was also charged in 2006 with a similar telecommunications scheme and barred from securities dealings in Massachusetts, Galvin’s office said. That scheme also targeted the Brazilian community.
Chris Reidy can be reached at email@example.com.