In August 2008, Claudio Osorio and his wife Amarilis hosted a fundraiser for then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign at their multimillion dollar home on Miami’s exclusive Star Island. Things went well. Michelle Obama was in attendance, and $400,000 was raised. A few weeks later, The Wall Street Journal noted the couple got special perks at the Democratic National Convention.
Less than five years later, the house is gone — sold at auction in November 2011 — and Claudio Osorio is facing federal charges for allegedly perpetrating a multimillion dollar fraud in which, authorities say, he lured investors in part by touting his political connections.
Osorio, 54, was arrested by federal agents last week, and now faces criminal fraud charges by prosecutors and a lawsuit by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission connected to his former company InnoVida, which filed for bankruptcy in March 2011. Osorio himself filed for bankruptcy the same month, after being sued by a number of his investors, including NBA star Carlos Boozer.
In news stories about Osorio and InnoVida’s downfall, it has been pointed out that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) served on the company’s board. But Osorio’s connections with the political world go beyond the whispered 2016 presidential contender. In the years before his life and business crashed and burned, Osorio and his wife donated at least $200,000 to various Democratic campaigns, according to federal finance data compiled from the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Osorios gave the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over $90,000 between 2008 and 2009 and chipped in thousands to Obama campaign during the President’s 2008 run. Amarilis also gave big to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, with over $45,000 in late 2009 and early 2010, and the Democratic National Committee, with almost $60,000 in 2008 and 2010. The DNC returned most of the money later in 2010. The couple cut checks for a number of other Democratic candidates in Florida, including Rep.-elect Joe Garcia, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and former Rep. Kendrick Meek.
The Osorios also, according to media reports, hosted high-profile fundraisers for Hillary Clinton as well as Obama at their Miami home. According to the lawsuit filed against Osorio by Boozer and his wife, who invested $1 million in InnoVida, the Osorios used the Obama fundraiser to “cement their standing as a legitimate, respectable power couple before the eyes of their guests.”
“Needless to say,” the lawsuit states, “Osorio and Amarilis carved an immensely impressive image of respectability and legitimacy which, by design, was solely intended to entice Plaintiffs and their other guests to purchase InnoVida membership interests.”
The Boozers’ lawsuit also alleges that Osorio asked Boozer to help him set up a meeting with Obama, knowing that the President’s assistant, Reggie Love, was a former classmate of Carlos Boozer’s at Duke University. In May 2009, according to the suit, the Boozers and the Osorios visited the White House, met with Love, and were introduced “to employees that worked for a government agency which had approximately $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars) to fund projects that were environmentally friendly.” According to the federal indictment, in January 2010, InnoVida applied for and later obtained a $10 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. government agency, for the purported purpose of building 500 homes for people displaced by Haiti’s devastating January 2010 earthquake. According to authorities, Osorio used the loan to repay investors and for his and his partners personal gain.
Osorio pitched InnoVida to investors as a innovative company for the public good: it was billed as a producer of fiber composite panels that could be used to construct homes and structures without cement, steel, or wood. But according to the SEC, Osorio recruited high-profile board members like Bush to InnoVida to “add an air of legitimacy” to the company and then told investors, among other things, that a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund would purchase investors’ shares for profits of about 900 percent.
Ultimately, SEC authorities alleged, Osorio used the millions he raised to “support his lavish lifestyle,” paying for the mortgages on his Miami Beach and Colorado mountain homes, the loan on his Maserati, and his country club dues.