MANAGUA, Nicaragua — A former Tacoma man 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 charges against Jason Puracal, 35, and ordered him released immediately.
We are happy, everyone that worked for this is happy, he said.
Gomez said it could be a matter of hours or days before Puracal, who worked as a real estate agent in Nicaragua, is released from the prison outside Managua, the capital.
The court was supposed to have announced its ruling by Sept. 4, according to Nicaraguan law, but Gomez said he wasnt told until Wednesday.
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 Puracals home sales were legitimate business deals and were not related in any way to drug traffickers.
Puracal made the Pacific coast beach 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 late 2010, masked police raided his real estate office and took him to Nicaraguas 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 sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Puracal was born in Illinois and raised in Tacoma. He graduated from Henry Foss High School in 1995. He went on to the University of Washington, completing a double major in economics and zoology. After graduating, he joined the Peace Corps in 2002. He was assigned to Nicaragua, where he launched a career in real estate. He eventually took ownership of a local RE/MAX franchise in San Juan del Sur, where he had lived most of the time since.
Puracals mother, Dr. Daisy Puracal Zachariah of Tacoma; and his sister, Janis Puracal, a Seattle attorney, launched a campaign to bring public attention to Jason Puracals arrest. They hired a public relations firm, worked the states congressional delegation and set up a website, freejasonp.com. They could not be reached for comment Wednesday. In addition, U.S. lawmakers supported Puracal by sending letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
News Tribune staff writers contributed to this report.