Feds seek 21 South Florida homes tied to pyramid scheme

The federal government is trying to repossess 21 South Florida homes believed to be linked to a Massachusetts-based pyramid scheme.

TelexFree co-owners James Merrill and Carlos Wanzeler face charges of defrauding immigrants from Brazil and the Dominican Republic as part of a $1 billion investment scam. Merrill was apprehended by authorities, while Wanzeler is a fugitive who might be hiding out in Brazil. Both are charged with collecting funds from investors without selling its Internet telephone product.

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Earlier this month, the case expanded to South Florida when the government filed a motion to seize the South Florida properties it thinks were purchased with money from the criminal scheme, according to the South Florida Business Journal. The homes were owned by companies controlled by Merrill and Wanzeler.

The properties are located in Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Lighthouse Point, Miami, Pompano Beach and West Palm Beach. [South Florida Business Journal]Eric Kalis