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.”