SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia .— Jacob Ostreicher was a flooring contractor and father of five from Borough Park, Brooklyn, who, like more than a few entrepreneurs battered by the recession, decided to seek his fortune abroad. In his case, he went into rice farming in Bolivia.
But Mr. Ostreicher’s venture has landed him in what, by his account, is a nightmare that has included 18 months in a notorious Bolivian prison and a lengthy battle with corrupt Bolivian prosecutors bent on stealing his business.
His arrest has turned into an international affair that has drawn in the State Department and the actor-director Sean Penn, who traveled to Bolivia to make a public appeal for Mr. Ostreicher’s release from prison in December.
Mr. Penn’s lobbying appeared to persuade the Bolivian authorities to relent, at least partly. Mr. Ostreicher was allowed out of prison on bail, but he remains under house arrest in Bolivia.
At the same time, more than a dozen Bolivian officials — including prosecutors and the chief legal counselor in the Interior Ministry — have now themselves been thrown into prison, charged with trying to extort Mr. Ostreicher’s assets.
In a telephone interview from his home in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Mr. Ostreicher, 54, professed his innocence and criticized Bolivian and American authorities. His voice was often weak from the effects of a lengthy hunger strike during which he lost 70 pounds. More...
Source: THE NEW YORK TIMES®