If former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is planning on running in 2016, maybe he’d better start by divesting himself of some of the shady people who are using him as a front for their scams. From the Miami Herald:
Claudio Osorio once boasted that he scaled the world’s iconic peaks: Fuji, Kilimanjaro and the Matterhorn.
On Friday, the jet-setting, Venezuelan-born entrepreneur took the steepest fall of his life when he was arrested by the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office on federal fraud charges. The sweeping indictment, charging him and his business partner, Craig Toll, with 23 counts of fraud and money laundering, probably has left many wondering whether the big-spending millionaire ever climbed anything other than the luxurious cherry staircase in his Star Island mansion.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also charged Osorio with defrauding investors by grossly exaggerating the financial success of his company, and stealing nearly half of the money to pay the mortgage on his $12 multimillion dollar home, his Maserati, a Colorado mountain retreat home and country club dues.
Osorio, 54, built his company, InnoVida, in 2005, selling it to investors as a cutting-edge producer of fiber-composite panels, which interlocked similar to Legos, and could produce affordable housing and post-disaster shelter in places like New Orleans, Haiti and developing countries overseas. His business model involved forming joint ventures in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Chris Korge, a shrewd Miami developer and lawyer, said Osorio assured him that his company had about $40 million in cash and a lucrative deal with Middle Eastern investors to purchase $500 million in company stock. Korge invested $4 million before he began to suspect that something didn’t add up.
“Jeb Bush was on the board, there were a lot of successful people convincing me. We went out and we met and I just began to realize that the cost-effectiveness of building with the materials would never work,’’ Korge said. By that time, however, it was too late.
Creditors were already knocking on Osorio’s door, including the Swiss government, which claimed he owed $220 million in loans from Swiss banks that he obtained by lying about the soundness of his previous business venture, Miami-based CHS Electronics. That company went bankrupt in 2000.
No one is suggesting that Mr. Bush knew anything about the scam, nor is he named in any of the suits filed by duped investors. But it makes you wonder who told him it would be a good idea to be connected with this guy. After all, if you’re going to get hooked up with scammers, why not go with the proven models?