Redefining the Bill of Sail

Six months ago Tony Aguiar was a Fort Lauderdale yacht broker with a penchant for the high life. Today he's on the lam in Cuba.

Evelyn McGlone, a 55-year-old widow who owns and operates a business fixing truck suspensions in Long Island, bought a 46-foot Nordhaven from Aguiar several years ago. She had her eye on a 57-footer but didn't have the cash. When Aguiar worked a deal to sell her old boat for a good price and use the money as a down payment on the 57, she and her fiancé couldn't resist.

"He was very convincing," she says. "It took him only a moment or so to bend us, and we decided that yes, we would part with our baby the 46, and put our money toward the 57."

Aguiar sold the 46-footer for $450,000. McGlone planned to sell her house, retire, hop aboard the bigger boat, and motor off into the sunset. She spent a week in Fort Lauderdale looking at the 57-footer, selecting options, making plans.

Aguiar never put in the order for McGlone's new boat. As she understands it now, he used $330,000 to pay off other orders and pocketed the rest. "I got a phone call one day from Bob Crow, who said I better sit down and compose myself, because Tony has taken off with everybody's money."

McGlone still seethes when talking about Aguiar. She trusted him, had dinner at his house, chatted with his wife, and was completely taken in. "I still wake up 3:30 in the morning, I see Tony's face laughing. It's unbelievable. You work all your life, since you were 14, and you have this schmo take off with your life's savings."

Ultimately Pacific Asian Enterprises, the California company that makes Nordhaven trawlers, was left holding the bag.

Pacific Asian's president, Dan Streech, says he was taken in by Aguiar's charms just like everyone else. It won't happen again. "We will never, ever, ever, in the new millennium or the next millennium after it, ever let the dealer handle the customer's money. Tony was the death blow to that kind of activity. We were caught off guard; it was poor management to get caught in the first place. He was kind of a charmer as these kinds always are."

Four people buying Nordhaven trawlers, including McGlone, were burned by Aguiar. Pacific Asian settled with all of them, either by reimbursing lost deposit money or selling them boats below cost. And they did it in a very un-American way: without going to court. "We took a step forward and tried to treat this as if valued customers were in distress," says Streech. "It was partly because that is the personality of our company, and we wanted to turn this disaster into something that we could hold our heads high about.

"It put a dent in an otherwise profitable year," he adds.

In the end McGlone got her 57-footer. She'll be able to write off some of her losses on her 1999 taxes, but she's still out money. And a lot of faith in her fellow man.

"He is just a professional con artist, and I believe that no matter where he goes in life, even if it is in jail, he will be wheeling and dealing. He would be the one with all the cigarettes."

Contact Bob Whitby at his e-mail address: bob.whitby@newtimesbpb.com

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