Jason Puracal photographed in prison
On August 29, 2011, U.S. citizen Jason Puracal was wrongfully convicted in Nicaragua of international money laundering, drug trafficking, and organized crime despite conclusive evidence of his innocence. Jason has been sentenced to twenty two years in La Modelo maximum-security prison located outside of Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua.
Jason moved from Seattle to Nicaragua in 2002 to serve in the Peace Corps. After he completed his service, he decided to stay in Nicaragua, becoming co-owner of a RE/MAX franchise. He would later marry a Nicaraguan woman and become a proud father of their now four-year-old son.
Jason’s nightmare began on November 11, 2010, when his home and office was raided by Nicaraguan police. No evidence of any crime was found during the raid, yet Jason found himself arrested and charged anyway.
Jason was tried along with ten other defendants that he had never met. Politics may have played a roll because one of the defendants was a man running for political office against the Sandinista government. There was no evidence linking Jason to the other defendants. No proof of money laundering was ever presented. The prosecution claimed that money laundering must have taken place because there were large sums of money in the RE/MAX escrow account associated with Jason’s business. This is nonsense. Jason was a successful real estate agent, not a criminal. The source of the money in the RE/MAX account belonged to clients who bought and sold property in Nicaragua through that account. Those RE/MAX clients were never interviewed in court. The police seized their money nonetheless.
Jason’s personal bank account was raided as well. The prosecution falsely claimed that Jason had been receiving drug money into his account since 2002. The deposits they claimed to be drug money were actually payments made to Jason from the Peace Corps. Jason received $250 a month for his service. Those payments (issued by the U.S. Government) were used as evidence of money laundering against Jason. This fact alone shows that Jason’s trial was a complete farce.
Jason’s case continues to gather a great deal of support, including several members of Congress, the California Innocence Project, Injustice Anywhere, and former FBI agent Steve Moore. Jason’s case also has the support of The David House Agency, an international crisis resource organization that provides services to Americans facing complex legal and political situations abroad. The agency is led by Eric Volz, a man who was wrongfully imprisoned in Nicaragua for a murder that he did not commit. Volz was later exonerated and released. Volz and former DEA Director Tom Cash launched a Change.org petition on Jason’s behalf that has currently collected more than 84,000 signatures.
Jason’s family has worked tirelessly for Jason. They lead the “The Free Jason P Team” at www.freejasonp.com, where you will always find up to date information on Jason’s case.
Jason currently stands convicted of crimes that he did not commit simply because he was a successful businessman in Nicaragua. He is currently housed in conditions not fit for human life. The stress of his wrongful imprisonment has taken a serious toll on Jason’s health, leaving his loved ones to rightfully fear that he will not survive.
La Modelo maximum-security prison
In a note from Jason’s sister, Janis, about her recent trip to Nicaragua, she writes about the horrible prison conditions that Jason has endured for the past eighteen months: “The visiting area is a large room with concrete floors, walls, and benches. The dilapidated roof is typical of the entire structure, and the place is loud, dirty, and crawling with insects. Jason was brought out about half an hour after we got to the room. He had a big smile for us and a huge hug. Jaime and I were surprised to see how much more weight he has lost over the last couple months. The malnutrition and stress of prison conditions have taken their toll on him physically. His cheeks are sunken in and his eyes have dark circles around them. His body looked weak and fragile, and he was having trouble lifting the bags of food we brought for him to take back to his cell. We told Jason about the Change.org petition. He was shocked to learn that over 80,000 people have already signed in the short time since the petition’s release. He was more shocked to learn that, every time a supporter signs the petition, an email goes to our four target representatives in the U.S. and Nicaraguan governments.”
After hearing the news about the petition, Jason sent a heartfelt message home with his sister thanking his supporters: “My sisters traveled to Nicaragua last week and told me about the 80,000+ signatures to my petition. The emotional, mental, and financial toll this has taken on my family is devastating. But knowing that 80,000 people would take the time to learn about my story and stand up for me gives me strength to endure this living hell.
Each day they visited, the first thing I would ask was for an update on the numbers. Knowing that the petition sends an email with each signature to our target U.S. and Nicaraguan representatives – it makes me feel as though thousands of fists are banging on the prison door demanding my release.
La Modelo is loud and overcrowded with prisoners, but it is a lonely place. It’s humbling to ask for the help of strangers, but please keep banging on those doors for me.”
Janis has been given strength from the support her family continues to receive from the media. She was told that Jason’s Change.org petition, along with another petition filed with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture by the Free Jason P Team on April 12, requesting an investigation into the appalling prison conditions at La Modelo, may not only help to free Jason, but may also help to improve prison conditions in Nicaragua. It is no surprise that prison officials have worked hard to hide those details. Hopefully the petition will raise awareness allowing human rights groups (that are routinely turned away at the gates) to see the horror that prisoners in Nicaragua endure on a daily basis.
Jason needs your help. Please join the thousands of others that are banging on Jason’s prison doors. Please sign the Change.org petition today.
Injustice Anywhere is an organization working to bring more attention to victims of wrongful conviction. Please visit www.injustice-anywhere.org to learn more about Jason’s case.