Coral Gables attorney Chris Korge planned to be vacationing in California, but he changed his plans when he learned the sentencing of former Miami Beach entrepreneur Claudio Osorio had been rescheduled.
Korge, who invested with Osorio, plans to address U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas on how Osorio fooled him, a former U.S. president, governor and general, developers and sports stars through his InnoVida Holdings LLC. Past and present NBA stars Alonzo Mourning and Dwight Howard and Carlos Boozer were fellow investors.
Sentencing for the native of Venezuela was rescheduled today for Sept. 18.
"He is one of the most crafty fraudsters that you would ever not want to meet," said Korge, a top Democratic Party campaign bundler from the law firm Korge & Korge and Landko Investments LLC. "I do not believe the judge should accept a reduced sentence as provided for by the plea bargain. Claudio Osorio has destroyed more lives than people can imagine. This case is just the tip of the iceberg."
Osorio promised to help rebuild Haiti after the devastating earthquake of January 2010 with houses made from InnoVida's futuristic material that could withstand flood, fire and hurricanes.
Instead, he ended up charged last December with falsely obtaining a $10 million loan from the U.S. government and fraudulently raising $40 million from investors.
"It's disgraceful how he used pain and suffering of the people of Haiti to defraud the U.S. government and to convince investors and reputable political figures to be involved in the company," Korge said.
Osorio, who once rubbed elbows with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and General Wesley Clark, could face up to 20 years in prison, though his attorneys think the term could be as low as 12 years.
When indicted, Osorio was looking at a potential 30 years behind bars.
Korge will encourage the Fort Lauderdale judge to show no mercy. He said the numbers in InnoVida's bankruptcy case don't add up, and he's certain Osorio and his wife, Amarilis, have hidden money in Latin America.
Amarilis Osorio received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her husband's guilty plea.
"They are probably pulling off another great fraud. This time on the criminal justice system," Korge said. "He's counting on getting out between eight to ten years and being a rich man."
Osorio's Miami attorney, Humberto Dominguez, said his client is not the Scott Rothstein or Bernard Madoff that his detractors make him out to be. Osorio was just a businessman whose know-how didn't equal his lofty ambitions, Dominguez said.
"I don't think anybody here was really evil," he said. "InnoVida was a good company. It probably could have made it. Everybody lost in this thing."
Dominguez said Osorio, in his desperation to right the books, fabricated bank documents.
Korge received a $4 million default judgment against Osorio in a 2010 civil suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Osorio failed to produce financial documents as ordered by the presiding judge in the case.
Before that, he was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1997 for founding the computer parts distributor CHS Electronics Inc.
When accounting problems landed CHS in bankruptcy, Osorio founded InnoVida, telling investors he would capitalize on a new-age polymer construction material that would allow buildings to be manufactured quickly with little labor.
After the earthquake, Osorio said he would build a factory in Haiti to produce 10,000 houses, donate 1,000 homes and create 1,000 jobs for earthquake victims. He obtained a $10 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a U.S. government agency that promotes American investments abroad to help foster the development and growth of free markets.
Then Korge started to challenge Osorio's accounting. Bush left InnoVida's board. Miami developer Jorge Perez, CEO of the Related Group, demanded his money back.
"I'm a Democrat and Jeb is a Republican, but I can tell you that Jeb was the only board member that actively and consistently did everything he could do to stop Claudio Osorio," Korge said.
After Korge won a $4 million verdict, Osorio's days as a corporate darling were over. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges, and the Justice Department issued the criminal fraud indictment.
Osorio pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges in March. The SEC received a default judgment against the company last spring.
Osorio's Star Island home — where he hosted fundraisers for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others — was sold at auction.
Dominguez said prosecutors now realize InnoVida wasn't a paper tiger, just a flawed one.
"At first glance they thought this whole thing was crap, but they now realize that there was a product — a good product," he said. "They were not out there selling the Brooklyn Bridge."
Korge said one of the saddest victims in this whole affair is InnoVida's former CFO, Craig Toll, who was convicted this month of wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and fraud on the Haiti project.
Toll's attorney, Richard Sharpstein, a partner at Akerman Senterfitt in Miami, said his client never got a cent beyond his salary and now could end up doing more prison time that Osorio. He is going to ask Dimitrouleas to set aside the verdict.
"My guy was nothing more than another victim of Osorio's," he said. "Osorio kept Toll on the hook by saying he was about to take the company public and they would make millions of dollars," Sharpstein said. "He was blinded by him."
Korge and Sharpstein said they thought Amarilis Osorio was the financial operator. They said Claudio Osorio did the soft shoe for investors.
Amarilis Osorio is fighting Korge in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to collect the $4 million he won in his civil suit.
Dominguez said his client just "had the contacts. He brought in the people. He was not the nuts-and-bolts guy."
Sharpstein said Osorio is just another in a long line of Florida charlatans who knew how to perform in society and political circles.
"This is another amazing fleecing-of-Miami story that seems to be so prevalent for some unknown reason," he said. "We have become the fleecing capital of America."