Claudio Osorio, the former globe-trotting executive who had headed a Fortune 500 company, faces up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing millions of dollars from investors in his ill-fated venture to build low-cost housing in Haiti and other developing countries.
Osorio, a Venezuelan native who once held fund-raisers for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other political heavyweights at his Star Island home, pleaded guilty Thursday to three conspiracy offenses involving wire fraud and money laundering.
The two fraud convictions carry up to 20 years and the laundering conviction up to 10 years. But Osorio, 54, is expected to be imprisoned for 12 or more years under federal sentencing guidelines at a hearing set for May 9.
He has agreed to cooperate with the U.S. attorney’s office in the continuing case against his defunct company’s former chief financial officer — and possibly others — and will be required to pay restitution of between $20 million and $50 million to victims. But very little of that money has been recovered so far.
FBI agents arrested Osorio in December after some of his investors accused the high-flying entrepreneur of using his Miami Beach-based company, Innovida Holdings, to fleece $50 million from them and the U.S. government. Among the investors: former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning. Osorio stole the money to prop up his Star Island lifestyle, and maintain resort homes in Switzerland and Telluride, Colo., according to authorities.
“I feel relieved, honestly, that a fraudster like Claudio Osorio has finally been brought to justice, and that he won’t be able to ruin any more people’s lives,” said Miami businessman Chris Korge, who invested $4 million in Innovida, including $3 million borrowed from his close friend, Miami-Dade lobbyist and businessman Rodney Barreto. “He has ruined a lot of people’s lives.”
Korge, a major Democratic fundraiser who came to know Osorio and his wife during the Clinton and Obama presidential campaigns, was not the only investor dazzled by the charismatic entrepreneur.
Others saw potential profits in Osorio’s company, including NBA star Carlos Boozer, a Tanzanian businessman, a group of United Arab Emirates investors, and a former Star Island neighbor.
Previously, Osorio had headed a computer distribution business in Miami that was listed on the Fortune 500 before it filed for bankruptcy in 2000. Despite the failure of CHS Electronics, several investors said they trusted Osorio with their money in his Innovida start-up because he sold them on the likelihood of its success.
Although Innovida had a manufacturing facility in North Miami-Dade, and prominent board members including former Gov. Jeb Bush and Miami condo king Jorge Perez, the company never gained traction.
Osorio was convicted of using Innovida, which claimed to produce high-tech building panels for low-cost housing, to deceive investors and line his pockets.
Osorio, represented by attorney Humberto Dominguez, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale federal court. As part of his plea, the U.S. attorney’s office agreed to drop 19 other charges.
In court, Osorio admitted he “solicited and recruited investors by making materially false representations and concealing and omitting material facts regarding ... the profitability of the company, the rates of return on investment funds, the use of investors’ funds and the existence of a pending lucrative contract with a third-party entity,” according to a statement issued by the U.S. attorney’s office.