Byline: Paula J. Owen
Luis C. Gallego said he and other immigrants who got scammed by TelexFree and other Ponzi and pyramid schemes were chasing a dream they hoped would alleviate their financial struggles, similar to the millions who purchase scratch tickets.
"Everybody knows it's a scam,'' said the 41-year-old roofer who came to the U.S. from Spain 12 years ago. "But, you see people getting money and there is pressure to try it.''
TelexFree investors claimed to make money hand-over-fist, he said, and evangelized about TelexFree on radio programs, YouTube and Facebook, at family gatherings and TelexFree-sponsored events, in the hopes of elevating themselves in the scheme to higher financial gains.
A year ago, a friend met Mr. Gallego in Wal-Mart and pressured him to invest money in TelexFree, he said.
"I say, 'No. You have to work. I don't believe in any of these things,' '' he said. "So many friends were buying many packets. I know people who sold businesses, pizzerias, houses and were making a lot of money for two years. Everybody was getting money. I know so many people in Leominster who did this.''
Mr. Gallego's job is dependent on the weather, and he said he and his wife, a housekeeper at HealthAlliance Hospital -- Burbank Campus in Fitchburg, financially struggled through many winters.
Their cars were breaking down, they wanted to move and they were worried about providing for their sons, now 4 and 7.
In January, Mr. Gallego said he and his wife were desperate. After months of fighting against peer pressure to invest in TelexFree, Mr. Gallego said he decided to buy in.
The couple invested $1,500 in TelexFree with the promise of making $400 a month for posting advertisements on the Internet.
Mr. Gallego would get up every morning at 4:30 to "work'' for TelexFree, copying and pasting advertisements, before heading to his roofing job at 5, and work until 8 or 9 p.m.
The couple also invested cash in the Wings Network, the most recent pyramid scheme to target minority communities that is also under investigation by Massachusetts Secretary William F. Galvin's office, according to spokesman Brian McNiff.
The Gallegos invested the family's entire savings, more than $5,000 his wife inherited from an aunt in Brazil.
Wings requires that people have two "investors'' below them to buy in, Mr. Gallego said. His wife was the primary investor.
"We invested $3,100 and we lent $1,550 to my boss to get into this,'' he said. "You are supposed to get...