MANAGUA, Nicaragua – A U.S. citizen jailed for nearly two years on money-laundering and drug charges in Nicaragua will be freed after a court unanimously upheld his appeal, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Attorney Fabbrith Gomez said the appeals court vacated the charges against Jason Puracal, 35, of Tacoma, and ordered him released immediately.
Gomez said it could be a matter of hours or days before the American who worked as a real estate agent in Nicaragua is released from the prison outside Managua, the capital. He said the three-judge panel also ordered the release of the other defendants in the case.
Eric Volz, managing director for the Los Angeles-based David House Agency that helped Puracal file petitions and publicize the case, said the order for his release had not yet been handed over to the prison.
“The family is thrilled to hear the news that they are another huge step closer to bringing Jason home,” Volz said in an emailed statement. “There is one thing we have known all along over the past two years: Jason is innocent.”
Details of the decision to free Puracal were not immediately available. There was no immediate confirmation from court officials.
Gomez had argued to the appeals court that Puracal’s home sales were legitimate business deals and were not related in any way to drug traffickers.
The University of Washington graduate made the Pacific coast surfing town of San Juan del Sur his home after a two-year stint in Nicaragua with the Peace Corps. He married a Nicaraguan woman and they had a son in March 2007.
On Nov. 11, 2010, masked policeman carrying AK-47 assault rifles raided his real estate office and took him to Nicaragua’s maximum-security prison. Prosecutors charged that Puracal was using his business as a front for money laundering in a region used to transport cocaine from Colombia to the United States.
He was convicted in August 2011 of all charges and later sentenced to 22 years in prison.