Friday, May 12, 2017

This Blog Taking Wings

"A federal judge in Boston this week ordered three officers and two promoters behind an international pyramid scheme called Wings Network to pay more than $3 million for their alleged role in the operation. The judgment comes as part of an ongoing civil case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Wings, which was operating locally from Framingham. According to the SEC’s complaint, filed last year, the scheme raised at least $23.5 million from thousands of investors, including many in Brazilian and Dominican immigrant communities in Massachusetts. The judgments entered Wednesday were by default, because the defendants either failed to appear or failed to respond to the complaint. Two of the people charged are from Massachusetts — Viviane Amaral Rodrigues of Clinton and Wesley Brandao Rodrigues of Marlborough. Two others are from Portugal, and another with addresses in Brazil and Florida. Additional people allegedly involved in the scheme are still facing charges. The SEC’s complaint alleged that two companies with the name Tropikgadget, operating under the name Wings Network, claimed to sell digital and mobile services to customers, such as cloud storage. However, the SEC alleged that revenues actually came solely from selling Wings memberships to investors, not from the sale of any products. The regulator also alleged that the group relied on the recruitment of new members, whose money went to pay earlier participants."

Also see: Winging It

Related(?)Stuck in the Brazilian Mud

"Former TelexFree CEO to plead guilty in $3b pyramid scheme" by Beth Healy Globe Staff  October 21, 2016

Federal authorities can claim one victory in their two-year pursuit of the leaders of TelexFree Inc., an alleged $3 billion global fraud: the Massachusetts man who ran the local operation has agreed to plead guilty.

James Merrill of Ashland, who rose from cleaning company owner to chief executive of TelexFree, will face a federal judge in Worcester on Monday to plead guilty to numerous counts of wire fraud for his role in an enterprise that ensnared nearly 1 million people, many of them housekeepers, painters, and other working people.

Meanwhile, Merrill’s business partner, Carlos Wanzeler, remains a fugitive in Brazil, where he faces charges, after fleeing the United States in April 2014.

TelexFree started in Brazil and was run from Marlborough from 2013 until April 2014, when federal agents raided the offices and the company filed for federal bankrutpcy protection. Until now, Merrill and Wanzeler have maintained their innocence, insisting that they were running a legitimate Internet phone service company.

In reality, TelexFree was a Ponzi scheme, prosecutors say, using money taken from an ever-growing network of small investors to pay off earlier participants.

Participants would buy shares for about $1,400 a piece, and were allegedly promised fast, double-digit returns. They received incentives for bringing in family and friends, and the alleged scheme spread like wildfire in the United States in just over a year.

Prosecutors say it was the largest fraud of all time in terms of the number of people affected, with victims in almost every country.

Merrill, 55, accepted a plea deal just weeks before he was set to go to trial before a jury. If found guilty, he faced a sentence that could have meant spending the rest of his life in prison. Prosecutors filed notice of Monday’s hearing with the court Friday but did not release details of the plea agreement.

Merrill is known as a family man, well-liked by neighbors and friends who wrote letters supporting his release on bail after his arrest in May 2014. Many believed he was duped by Wanzeler and a third TelexFree partner, Carlos Costa. Costa lives in Brazil, where he is facing charges. He has not been charged in the US criminal case.

To US securities regulators, Merrill presented himself as unfamiliar with the details of the business and unaware of the pyramid scheme. He could not explain why Costa’s share in the company had been transferred to him, raising Merrill’s stake from 20 percent to 50 percent in 2013.

But in videos, Merrill appeared at rousing conferences of TelexFree participants eager to cash in on easy money. In the hill towns around Vitoria, Brazil, where the company was once headquartered, young men interviewed by the Globe once vouched for the money they made with the company. In their view, TelexFree only failed because the government interfered.

Merrill and his business partners allegedly took advantage of Brazilian and Dominican immigrants in Massachusetts, even though Wanzeler himself was once a new immigrant here, searching for work. Indeed, that’s how the two met, back in the 1990s, when Merrill hired Wanzeler and other members of his family to work at the cleaning firm.

Wanzeler, Merrill, and Costa went into business together in 2010, according to the criminal indictment filed in July 2014. TelexFree’s operation in Brazil was shut down by authorities there in 2013 and the headquarters shifted to Marlborough.

In April 2014, with investors suddenly having trouble getting their money out of the company, federal authorities raided the Marlborough offices of TelexFree, catching a temporary chief financial officer trying to flee with a bag containing millions of dollars in cashiers checks.

Wanzeler slipped across the Canadian border and flew to Brazil. He left his wife and family in suburban Northborough. US authorities have tried to get him to return to face charges, but under Brazil’s extradition treaty with the United States, he was not compelled to return.


Also see:

CEO of TelexFree pleads guilty, faces up to 10 years in prison
Prosecutors recommend 10-year sentence for former TelexFree CEO
Former TelexFree CEO seeks 1-year sentence in global fraud
Former TelexFree executive gets six years for his role in $3 billion scam


"With bird flu surging, US needs to do more to prevent possible pandemic, GAO says" by Lena H. Sun Washington Post  May 12, 2017

WASHINGTON — A new Government Accountability Office report, scheduled for release next week, comes at a time of heightened public health worries about bird flu. One of the deadliest strains, H7N9, is causing a surge in human infections in China this season. Of the nearly 200 people who have died, most had direct contact with poultry or poultry markets.

Translation: an agenda-pushing narrative is being formed.

Bird flu outbreaks this spring in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky have led officials to euthanize more than 200,000 animals.

One way to track the potential for the spread of avian influenza is to look for the virus in pigs, which act as an intermediate host or ‘‘mixing vessel’’ in which flu viruses can recombine to pose new threats to humans. 

This is what they tell us anyway; who knows in what bioweapons labs they are developing this stuff. Monkey bit a man and all that stuff. I suppose there was a day long ago when I believed such things, but government behavior regarding things like this have long called into question their ultimate motives.

In 2009, H1N1 swine flu caused a global pandemic. But funding for a voluntary surveillance program that gathers data on the types of influenza viruses circulating in pigs will run out of money by Sept. 30, the report says.


They need MORE FUNDING -- thus the heightened alert and new report!

I mean, for the most part, this issue has been a non-item in my pre$$. 

Now, all of a $udden.... !!

The Agriculture program, which is the only federal source of data for influenza surveillance in pigs, relies on $25 million transferred from HHS. But the Trump administration’s preliminary budget proposal for fiscal 2018 cuts Agriculture’s budget by 21 percent and that of HHS by 18 percent.

The Agriculture Department has taken hundreds of corrective actions since the 2014 and 2016 bird flu outbreaks but has not evaluated their impact....

You are telling me this government that is so obsessed with data collection and puts out reports all the time citing hard numbers either isn't bothering to look or is being sloppy?

Must be an indu$try concern.


Texas left a message, and Hanford will soon be cleaned up:

"Cleanups of the polluted 1,300 Superfund sites around the country, which have been paid for largely by polluters, can take years or even decades to complete. Since its creation in 1980, the program has been dogged by criticism for its slow pace...."

Of course, the Globe cares more about the Cape.


“We’re heading in the right direction with all this rain, and all this damp, cold weather.”

And there is a Nor'easter on the way this weekend!

That's going to ground me.

Think I'll $leep on it.