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Claudio Osorio Sentenced To 12-1/2 Years For Haiti Homes Fraud

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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI, Sept 18 (Reuters) - A Miami businessman was sentenced to 12-1/2 years in prison for his role in a $40 million investment fraud that promoted low-cost, hurricane-proof houses in Haiti.

Venezuelan-born Claudio Osorio, 54, the former president of InnoVida Holdings, was also ordered by a federal court judge to pay $24 million in restitution to victims of the fraud.

Ororio pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud and money laundering in March in the U.S. Southern District of Florida.

"I've come here to apologize to my family, shareholders, employees, creditors and the community," Osorio told the court, pledging to repay his debts as soon as he leaves prison.

"I betrayed all of that faith and belief they had. I have failed them," he added.

Once named "Entrepreneur of the Year," by tax and consulting firm Ernst & Young, Osorio faced a maximum of 50 years in jail.

His conviction marked a fall from grace for the once politically connected businessman. At one point, Florida's former governor, Jeb Bush, and former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark were on the board of Osorio's now-defunct company.

Osorio pitched the company and its products as a possible solution to building affordable houses, resistant to fires and hurricanes, in developing countries.

The company, InnoVida, manufactured fiber composite panels that could be used to build homes and other buildings without cement, steel or wood, he said.

Prosecutors said 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 used more than $8 million of investors' money to pay for a mansion in Miami Beach, a Maserati and a Colorado mountain retreat home, prosecutors said.

The case is U.S. vs Claudio Eleazar Osorio, Case 12-20901, United States Distrcit Court Southern District of Florida. (Writing by David Adams; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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