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Jewish American Sits Almost a Year With No Charges in Bolivian Prison

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Published on May 12, 2012

In a grim Bolivian prison, a lone Jewish American man has languished for nearly a year, uncharged by authorities who have accused him of money laundering, but he says he is innocent of any wrongdoing and refuses to give in.

Jacob Ostreicher is a 53-year-old flooring contractor from Brooklyn. It's a family business, selling and installing flooring mostly for commercial clients in the New York City area. In 2008, as the construction industry collapsed in the U.S., Jacob said he heard from a family friend -- a prominent lawyer in Switzerland -- about a promising investment opportunity: growing rice in Bolivia.

Ostreicher said he put $200,000 -- his life savings -- into the venture and became a very junior partner in a $25 million project.

He said things went well for a year or so. The first harvest yielded nearly 40 million pounds of rice. More than 200 Bolivian workers were employed in the business. Ostreicher helped manage it, traveling frequently to Bolivia.

Then in 2011, Bolivian police arrested one of Ostreicher's former employees and accused him of being involved with drug criminals. Ostreicher said he cooperated fully with police -- and then was arrested himself.

Prosecutors claimed they were investigating whether the $25 million that started the rice business came from drug money.

"So we spent close to $20,000 to get together 1,300 documents to show them the origin of the money," Ostreicher said. "We provided that to the judge. And the judge gave me my freedom."

But six days later, in an extraordinary move, the judge reversed his decision and Ostreicher was sent back to prison. The judge was later promoted to the appellate court, further delaying proceedings.

Read more at http://abcnews.go.com/International/a...

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