FBI tracks American woman wanted over fatal hit-and-run to Adelaide

FBI special agents have tracked down an American woman, currently on their most-wanted list, to Adelaide after an international search spanning seven months.

 A tip-off from a woman lead police to Andrea Dorothy Chan Reyes.

A tip-off from a woman lead police to Andrea Dorothy Chan Reyes.

Andrea Dorothy Chan Reyes, 33, is facing extradition to the United States after she allegedly hit and killed cyclist Agustin Rodriguez Jr in January 2017 and fled the scene.

Documents from the United States District Court allege Ms Chan Reyes was travelling at a "high rate of speed" when she hit the 46-year-old man, who was dragged about 270 metres under her sports car.

The court documents stated that she did not stop to help the cyclist, as is required by law, and instead continued driving at an "unsafe speed" on the wrong side of the road.

Later that same day, Ms Chan Reyes took her white Lexus, which had a broken windscreen and damage to the front bumper, headlight and front area of the roof, to a repair shop in California where she told staff she had hit a deer.

She flew to Hong Kong — where she had family ties — five days after the fatal hit-and-run in a move the FBI claimed was "with the intent to avoid prosecution".

Within an hour of the collision on January 30, the Whittier Police Department issued a press release seeking the public's help in any information about a white Lexus involved in the hit-and-run.

It was a tip-off from a woman, believed to be a colleague of Ms Chan Reyes, more than a week after the crash that alerted police that she could be the owner of the white Lexus involved in the incident.

The woman told police Ms Chan Reyes drove a white Lexus and had been late to work on the day of the crash.

About four weeks later, in March 2017, police officers used the car's internal GPS system to track it down to a private garage, which was owned by a business associate of Ms Chan Reyes' boyfriend at the time.

The Whittier Police Department allege they found DNA on the car which matched the victim.

Documents show several trips to Hong Kong

Court documents stated the owner of the garage told police Ms Chan Reyes had told him she had "hit somebody on a bike and left the scene".

An arrest warrant was issued in September 2017.

Court documents show the US citizen, who was born in the Philippines, made several trips between Hong Kong and Australia in August and September 2017.

This week, the Adelaide Magistrates Court heard Ms Chan Reyes was arrested by Australian Federal Police in Adelaide in April 2018 and has been remanded in custody since then.

If extradited, she faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run driving resulting in death or serious injury to another person and destroying or concealing evidence.

Her case will return to the Adelaide Magistrates Court next month.


Want to work at home? Take a lesson from this $3 billion pyramid scam.

The road to financial ruin is littered with failed pyramid schemes — illegal arrangements in which participants make most of their money not by selling a product, but simply by recruiting more members.

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The road to financial ruin is littered with failed pyramid schemes — illegal arrangements in which participants make most of their money not by selling a product, but simply by recruiting more members.

The pyramid collapses when the supply of new recruits runs out, as it invariably does. Those at the top of the pyramid make money, leaving those near the bottom holding the bag.

"There's no actual products being sold. There's no real revenue coming in," Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, told CNBC's "American Greed." "It's just money going around in circles, which is basically a Ponzi scheme."

A Ponzi scheme uses money from new investors to pay earlier investors. In a pyramid scheme, the earlier participants recruit newer ones, and they are all ostensibly selling a product.

No pyramid scheme was bigger than TelexFree, which conned 1.8 million victims worldwide into shelling out $3 billion to get in on what was, essentially, a bogus business. Lelling says TelexFree is the largest pyramid scheme ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. By contrast, Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme resulted in at least $17.5 billion in losses, but the number of investors who were cheated numbered in the thousands.

Charismatic co-founder Carlos Wanzeler, who moved to Brazil the day federal agents raided TelexFree's offices, faces a 17-count federal indictment alleging conspiracy and fraud. His business partner, James Merrill, is serving a six-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2016 to 10 felony counts.

While TelexFree was ostensibly in the business of selling an internet phone service allowing free calls to Brazil and Latin America, participants were not expected to sell the product itself. Instead, they would spend their own money to buy ads for the service. They would be paid for cutting and pasting the ads online, and for recruiting other people to do the same.

When U.S. and Brazilian authorities began investigating TelexFree for what appeared to be an illegal pyramid scheme, the company declared bankruptcy and froze members' accounts, leaving millions of people around the world in the cold.

"They took money from people that (were) not rich. They are greedy," TelexFree member Eloites Euriques said, referring to Wanzeler and Merrill. "They wanted more money, but they have to think what they did for poor people and sick people like me."

Euriques, who suffers from multiple ailments, lost her life's savings of more than $20,000. She had hoped to use her TelexFree earnings to pay for heart surgery.

"There are legitimate multilevel marketing companies," Lelling told "American Greed." "The difference is that a legitimate company makes its revenue from the actual sale of a product. A pyramid scheme does not."

TelexFree owner appears to have left US.

Lawyers from the US Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday they believe one of TelexFree Inc.’s owners has left the country for Brazil, amid a grand jury investigation of the Marlborough phone-service company and its principals.

  Federal investigators raided TelexFree in Marlborough last month.

Federal investigators raided TelexFree in Marlborough last month.

Lawyers from the US Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday they believe one of TelexFree Inc.’s owners has left the country for Brazil, amid a grand jury investigation of the Marlborough phone-service company and its principals.

There would have been nothing to stop co-owner Carlos Wanzeler from leaving the United States, as no criminal charges have been brought against him or anyone else involved with the company. Lawyers for Wanzeler, co-owner James Merrill, and other defendants were in federal court Wednesday facing civil fraud charges filed by the SEC.

Regulators sued TelexFree and froze the company’s assets last month, alleging the business and its principals were operating an illegal pyramid scheme that may have raised more than $1 billion from people around the world. Prosecutors are presenting the case to a criminal grand jury in Boston, according to several lawyers involved in the case.

Wanzeler’s lawyer, Paul Kelly, declined to comment on whether his client is in Brazil. He said that Wanzeler has dual citizenship in the United States and Brazil and that it “wouldn’t terribly surprise anybody’’ if he had traveled there recently.

A spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s office in Boston declined to comment on what it might mean to its investigation if Wanzeler has left the country.

The SEC alleged that the company filed for bankruptcy in Las Vegas merely to evade Boston-area regulators and victims in an alleged fraud.

Merrill and Wanzeler met in the 1990s, when Wanzeler and his family of Brazilian immigrants went to work for Merrill’s Ashland cleaning company, according to court records. In time the two became business partners, and since at least November 2012 they have run an enterprise that raised more than $300 million from predominantly Brazilian and Dominican immigrant communities across the country, according to the SEC’s complaint filed last month.

In court Wednesday, TelexFree’s lawyers argued that the company’s owners have a legitimate business selling Internet-based telephone service for long-distance calls and a mobile phone application to accompany it. They said the company filed for federal bankruptcy protection in Nevada last month so it can reorganize the business and generate more revenue for its participants.

But the SEC said in court Wednesday that there is no meaningful business to speak of at TelexFree.

“We believe there’s nothing to reorganize here,’’ said Frank Huntington, an SEC lawyer.

Huntington said that, by TelexFree’s accounting, the company has about $100 million in assets that could be available to creditors, most of whom are the company’s participants and promoters. That figure includes $38 million in cashier’s checks the company’s acting chief financial officer allegedly carried with him last month as he attempted to leave TelexFree’s offices while federal agents were there seizing computers and records.

In court records in Las Vegas, TelexFree said it had about 700,000 participants around the world, and some company executives estimated they had promised them as much as $5 billion. But that number is far from certain, according to both TelexFree representatives and SEC lawyers.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who also filed fraud charges against TelexFree, has pegged the global losses at $1.1 billion. In either case, those figures may include the investment returns participants expected to get, rather than money they actually lost.

That distinction may affect the amount of money victims will ultimately be able to claim.

In the Bernard Madoff fraud case, for instance, the bankruptcy trustee determined that investors could claim only the original funds they had invested, not the gains they had been falsely promised. And the trustee pursued large, early investors who had reaped vast gains, in order to repay some of the later investors who lost money.

Since potentially hundreds of thousands of participants stretch from Boston to Tanzania, the SEC’s Huntington said, “That’s going to be a massive problem to figure out the accounting.’’

On Tuesday, TelexFree’s separate bankruptcy case was moved to Massachusetts by a federal judge in Las Vegas after the SEC argued there were no grounds for the case to be filed in Nevada. On Wednesday, an SEC lawyer said the regulator would ask a judge to move the case from Worcester to Boston.

Lawyers for Merrill and Wanzeler asked the judge to release some of their personal assets, which were frozen by an earlier court order, so they can cover their living expenses. They also said each of the men would like to be able to run their cleaning businesses, which, the lawyers said, predate their work at TelexFree.

TelexFree Ponzi scheme fugitive stripped of Brazilian citizenship; may open door to extradition

The fugitive cofounder of TelexFree Inc., a multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme based in Massachusetts, has had his Brazilian citizenship revoked — a move that may open the door for his extradition to the United States.

  Carlos Wanzeler fled to Brazil in 2014.

Carlos Wanzeler fled to Brazil in 2014.

The fugitive co-founder of TelexFree Inc., a multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme based in Massachusetts, has had his Brazilian citizenship revoked — a move that may open the door for his extradition to the United States.

Carlos Wanzeler, who fled to his native Brazil in 2014, was stripped of his citizenship last week by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, according to a report published in Diário Oficial da União, the official journal of the Brazilian federal government.

Wanzeler, 49, left for Brazil — via Canada — the same day federal authorities raided TelexFree’s headquarters in Marlborough.

US officials had been negotiating for Wanzeler’s return, but Brazil does not extradite its own citizens. By stripping Wanzeler of his citizenship, however, Brazilian authorities may be taking a step toward his extradition — a move that was employed recently with a fugitive Brazilian woman wanted in Ohio in connection with the 2007 killing of her husband.

The Ministry of Justice cited that Wanzeler was being stripped of this citizenship because he became a naturalized American citizen in 2009, according to the official government publication. Brazil’s constitution allows for citizenship to be revoked under certain circumstances, but it is rarely done.

Wanzeler’s attorneys in Brazil have appealed the ruling. Meanwhile, authorities there are separately prosecuting TelexFree and its owners.

Paul V. Kelly, a Boston attorney who represented Wanzeler and now represents his wife, who still lives in Massachusetts, wrote in an e-mail to the Globe that he was surprised by the revocation of citizenship.

“It seems somewhat radical to me that Brazil can pass a new law, and then apply it in a legal proceeding that has been pending for several years, and against a person who was born and raised in that country,” Kelly said. “In obtaining dual US citizenship several years ago, for specific and lawful reasons, Mr. Wanzeler never intended to relinquish citizenship in his home country. Mr. Wanzeler has always maintained a home in Brazil, and it is where most of his family members reside.”

US hunts drug kingpin known as ‘Rolex’ as tonnes of cocaine seized, associates arrested

‘This drug ring has spread death and misery across the Americas and to other parts of the world’

 Mexican drug fugitive Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum. Photo: AP

Mexican drug fugitive Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum. Photo: AP

They found the cocaine in submarines, in speedboats stopped in the Pacific Ocean, in a private jet that crashed into the Caribbean Sea and, perhaps most strangely, in frozen cubes of orange juice transported in trucks.

Officials in Mexico, Colombia and Los Angeles seized 3,500 kilograms (7,700 pounds) of cocaine and other drugs worth over US$500 million as part of a four-year investigation into a global drug ring, according to the US Department of Justice.

On Friday, one of the leaders behind the drug operation was arraigned in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom after being extradited from Colombia. Victor Hugo Cuellar-Silva arrived Thursday night at Los Angeles International Airport.

According to a federal indictment, Cuellar-Silva is the head of the Colombia base for the organisation and is responsible for obtaining tonnes of cocaine and other drugs from South American labs and coordinating transport their for sale in the US and elsewhere.

Six California residents were arrested in their homes Thursday on suspicion of operating stash houses and transporting the drugs in cars to be sold, federal prosecutor Alexander Schwab said.

Those arrested were Hugo Atienzo, 55, of Azusa; Juan Antonio Brizuela, 29, of Lompoc; Richard Dennis, 54, of Studio City; Gerardo Mojarro, 42, of South Gate; Jesus Manuel Monrreal, 33, of Van Nuys; and Jonathan Zamora, 28, of Cerritos.

Amparo Yokasta Melo Peguero, 44, was arrested as she was preparing to take an international flight from Boston.

Six additional defendants are pending extradition after they were taken into custody in Colombia and Thailand.

“What we’ve been able to accomplish is indict an international drug trafficking organisation and … uproot the leadership responsible for aggregating and transporting multi-tonne loads of cocaine,” federal prosecutor Benjamin Barron said.

“It’s among the largest drug cases we’ve ever prosecuted out of our Los Angeles district.”

One major piece of the puzzle is missing: the Mexican kingpin running the whole ring, Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum, who is listed in the indictment. He is also known by aliases such as “Don Angel”, “Rolex” and “Netflix.”

“We are still very much on the hunt for him,” federal prosecutor Ryan Weinstein said.

Chavez-Gastelum has made millions by taking the drug operation into his own hands, Barron said, and has ordered the murders of several people who stole from him or cooperated with law enforcement officials.

The indictment includes two murders for which Chavez-Gastelum is suspected of being responsible. One victim’s torture and dismemberment was captured on a video obtained by officials.

Chavez-Gastelum is one of the world’s 30 most-wanted drug traffickers and commands multiple top representatives of the drug organisation, including Cuellar-Silva, according to a Justice Department statement.

If apprehended and convicted of taking part in a continuing criminal enterprise, Chavez-Gastelum would face a mandatory life sentence because he is accused of being its leader.

Cuellar-Silva and three others – including Chavez-Gastelum’s 27-year-old son, who is accused of running the criminal enterprise – would face mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years in prison if they are found guilty.

In 2016, two other drug kingpins were extradited from Colombia and are awaiting sentencing.

“This drug ring has spread death and misery across the Americas and to other parts of the world, which makes this case among the most significant drug trafficking cases ever brought in this district,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.

“We are deeply grateful to the government of Colombia for helping us bring one of the key defendants to justice.”