* Osorio pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, money
* Hosted Democratic Party fundraisers at his home
* Former company said Jeb Bush, Wesley Clark were on board
By David Adams and and Kevin Gray
MIAMI, March 1 A politically well-connected
Miami businessman has pleaded guilty to charges that he led a
$40 million investment fraud linked to a company he owned that
promoted a cutting-edge design to build low-cost houses.
Claudio Osorio, 54, the former president of InnoVida
Holdings, and the firm's former chief financial officer, were
indicted in December on multiple charges of fraud and money
Osorio on Thursday pleaded guilty to two counts of
conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of conspiracy to money
laundering, said his lawyer, Humberto Dominguez.
Osorio, who was once named "Entrepreneur of the Year," by
tax and consulting firm Ernst & Young, faces a maximum of 50
years in jail at sentencing set for May 9.
His arrest marks a dramatic fall from grace for the
politically connected businessman whose now defunct company at
one point claimed Florida's former governor, Jeb Bush, among its
board of directors, as well as former presidential candidate
Gen. Wesley Clark.
Osorio and his wife also hosted a fundraiser for Hillary
Clinton at their former Miami Beach home on Star Island.
Before it entered bankruptcy in 2011, the Miami Beach-based
company drew some high-profile investor interest that included
basketball star Carlos Boozer of the NBA's Chicago Bulls.
Osorio, who was born in Venezuela, pitched the company and
its products as a possible solution to help build affordable
houses in developing countries that were resistant to fire and
InnoVida, he said, manufactured fiber composite panels that
could be used to build homes and other buildings without cement,
steel or wood.
Prosecutors said that Osorio defrauded investors from 2007
to 2010, exaggerating the company's finances twenty-fold and
pocketing millions of dollars to fund a lavish lifestyle.
Osorio illegally used more than $8 million of investor money
to pay for such luxuries as a mansion in Miami Beach, a Maserati
and a Colorado mountain retreat home, according to prosecutors.
As the company slid into bankruptcy, Osorio was forced to
sell many of his assets. Some investors, concerned about the
company's finances, filed lawsuits against him in an effort to
get their money back.
Boozer was among those litigants. Last year, he sued Osorio,
claiming his $1 million investment had been used to bankroll the
businessman's "high-flying lifestyle," according to court
The indictment by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said
that Osorio and his former Chief Financial Officer Craig Toll,
64, also applied for and obtained a $10 million loan from the
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a U.S.
The loan was intended to help build a manufacturing facility
in Haiti and 500 homes for families in Haiti after a devastating
earthquake in 2010 left an estimated 250,000 people dead and
more than one million homeless.
Prosecutors said Osorio "used the OPIC loan proceeds to
repay investors and for his and his co-conspirators' personal
benefit and to further the fraud scheme."
In 1997, Ernst & Young awarded Osorio its "Entrepreneur of
the Year" prize for his work at CHS Electronics, a previous
company he owned. At the time, the company was one of the
country's leading electronics distributors.
In 1999, CHS Electronics said it had settled a class-action
lawsuit brought by some shareholders. A year later the company
was declared bankrupt.
(Editing by G Crosse)