The president of a Massachusetts-based internet telecom company that prosecutors say was actually a pyramid scheme that cheated about 965,000 people worldwide out of nearly $1.8 billion has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy.
James Merrill entered the pleas in federal court on Monday in a deal with prosecutors that will limit him to a maximum of 10 years in prison at sentencing on Feb. 2.
Prosecutors say the 55-year-old Ashland man was president of TelexFree, which sold VOIP telephone service.
TelexFree had few customers, and made most of its revenue from people buying into the company with a promise of payouts for posting online ads for it. They were paid with money from new recruits.
Merrill's lawyer says his client played a limited role in TelexFree but accepts responsibility.