The idea that people “hide money under the mattress” is typically a joke. The vast majority of responsible adults choose much more responsible methods of storing their physical wealth. For example a bank, the stock market, even a safe. But surely there is still some percentage of the population that stores money in mattress-related locations. It’s probably not a ton of money. Maybe a few hundred dollars in cash for emergencies. Maybe a couple thousand dollars you made at a garage sale that you don’t want the IRS to know about. But not more than that, right? Well…
Recently, Federal Agents in Boston revealed a photo that shows the age old practice of mattress money stuffing is still very much thriving. It’s especially thriving among illegal immigrants who are running a massive telecommunications pyramid scheme!
Late last night in Westborough, Massachusetts, agents served a search warrant to a telecommunications company called TelexFree Inc. Several arrests were made and important documents/computers were seized. At the same time, using information from a cooperator, agents also searched a nondescript one bedroom apartment nearby.
The apartment was pretty normal. One bedroom, one bathroom, living room, small kitchen. Monthly rent is around $1600. So you can imagine the shock when agents searched under the queen-sized mattress and discovered a box spring stuffed with $20 million in illegal cash 🙂
Police arrested the apartment’s resident, a 28 year old Brazilian man named Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
TelexFree first made headlines back in April 2014 when agents swooped in and arrested several former executives of the telecommunications company. According to authorities, TelexFree operated a pyramid scheme that preyed upon Dominican and Brazilian immigrants. TelexFree advertised itself as a substitute to landline phone services through the sale of its VOIP program, 99TelexFREE.
But that’s not all. TelexFree also promised customers big returns on a passive income scheme involved advertising 99TelexFree. Investors paid a $50 fee on top of an additional $300 – $1400 to purchase advertising kits. Customers would then advertise the VOIP services to their friends using these kits. A participant who spent $1400 advertising these VOIP kits could supposedly earn a return of $3675.
In total, this scam helped TelexFree generate just $1.3 million worth of new VOIP revenue while collecting more than $1.1 BILLION in service fees from its participants.
Rafael Mares, a vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, said he filed the complaint because the MBTA needs to make up for the loss of late-night service as soon as possible.
“Some of the T’s most vulnerable customers were affected by the termination of late-night service,” he said. The MBTA “chose not to do anything about it. The service that’s so important for late-night shift workers has been terminated since March, and nothing else has been put in place.”
The complaint doesn’t ask the MBTA to restore late-night service, but the coalition wants it to fully vet alternative routes that could help the minority and low-income riders affected by the cancellation. Until a permanent decision is made, the complaint asks the MBTA to temporarily put other services into place to help those riders.
Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the T does not comment on pending litigation, but wrote that the Federal Transit Administration “has informed the MBTA that the equity analysis on Late Night Service is properly documented and has met their requirements.”
The FTA in May responded to a complaint about the cancellation, saying that the MBTA “demonstrated the need to eliminate late-night service, and explained why alternative proposals were not feasible.”
Federal officials wrote that the MBTA would not have to take further steps to mitigate the cancellation, and that the service was eliminated in a way that complied with federal rules.
The MBTA initially offered late-night service on a trial basis, and then extended it for nearly two years. Under federal guidelines, a transit system must complete a civil rights analysis before cutting service if the service has been in place for more than a year.
In February, the T’s fiscal control board voted to end late-night service, saying it was not “cost-effective.” The T spent about $14 million annually to extend service for subway lines, popular bus routes, and the paratransit service from 12:30 a.m. to about 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night.
Initially, The Federal Transit Administration rebuked the MBTA for voting to get rid of the late service without completing a required analysis that would have shows whether minority and low-income riders would be hurt disproportionately. That research is supposed to determine whether the T must take extra steps to make up for the effects on those riders.
The T completed the analysis later, but said that it found “mixed results” as to whether the cuts would be discriminatory.
Tuesday’s complaint, however, says the T’s civil rights analysis was flawed because of the way it used population data to measure who would be affected. Instead of limiting data to smaller geographic areas with larger concentrations of minority and low-income riders, the study included all of Boston’s population, for example, which includes many higher-income and less-diverse areas.
The advocacy organizations allege that if the T had used the proper federal guidelines, it would have found that canceling the service placed a disparate burden on minority riders and a disproportionate burden on low-income riders.
MBTA officials have said they plan to revisit alternatives for late-night service, including an all-night bus service. But Tuesday’s complaint says the T should consider such changes to be mandatory, not voluntary.
The Conservation Law Foundation is joined in the complaint by Alternatives for Community & Environment, a Boston-based environmental advocacy organization that opposed T fare hikes, and the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, also of Boston.
Supporters of late-night service said they do not expect the same hours and levels of service to be restored. But Stephen Clark, director of government affairs at the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said late-night workers who have fewer transit options deserve some help.
Members of a Massachusetts Senate panel plan to visit Colorado next week to learn more about that state’s experience with the legalized use of recreational marijuana.
The Senate Special Committee on Marijuana was created last year in response to a likely 2016 ballot question that — if approved by voters — would allow pot to be used recreationally in Massachusetts.
A draft itinerary for the four-day trip starting Monday includes meetings and discussions with Colorado state regulators, legislators and law enforcement officials.
“We have recognized all along that the best way to really learn about the impact of legalizing marijuana is to spend time on the ground in the state that has the most experience with it, and that is Colorado,” said Sen. Jason Lewis, a Winchester Democrat who chairs the committee of 10 senators, eight of whom plan to be on the trip.
The visit is being paid for by Milbank Memorial Fund, a nonprofit foundation that specializes in health policy, Lewis said Friday.
Three other states — Washington, Alaska and Oregon — have legalized recreational pot.
A group called The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected more than enough signatures last year to advance the proposed ballot question, which would allow Massachusetts residents 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. It would also create a 3.75 percent state excise tax on retail marijuana sales that would be assessed on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.
Massachusetts voters approved two earlier ballot questions that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and authorized patients with certain medical conditions to use the drug.
“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes and the challenges we had in implementing the medical marijuana question,” said Lewis, referring to regulatory delays that kept the first dispensaries from opening until last year.
Regulating recreational marijuana would be even more complex, he said, with issues that include public safety, licensing, taxes and compliance with federal law.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and state Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, are among those lined up against the proposed ballot question, with Baker saying he is “unalterably opposed” to legalizing marijuana.