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Even his charity often had an extreme, go-for-broke quality. When some members of Chabad wanted to travel to New York to visit the grave of a spiritual leader, he chartered a huge plane and brought bag lunches for everybody. When they were laid over in Moscow on a religious pilgrimage and needed to shower, he rented out dozens of hotel rooms for a few hours. Levine recalls, "One time, he had 14 seats on the floor for an [NBA] playoff game. That's a little over-the-top."
Aguiar had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the filmmaker saw periods of dark depression. "Unfortunately, I've seen him at his best and I've seen him at his worst too," Levine says. "That same sort of aggressiveness and drive, that ambitious focus, could be turned [to] work against him. Now all of a sudden, [he was] spending 20 hours a day doing stupid things."
In June 2009, Aguiar was arrested for erratic driving and marijuana possession. Police officers later reported he acted violent in custody and told them he would "take [their] jobs and [their] families."
Rabbi Singer concedes that Aguiar might have had a big ego but believes that if he ever called himself a messiah, it was just because he saw himself as a devoted servant of God improving the world. "Guma said to me: 'I don't care if I'm the messiah or if I bring him his coffee in the morning. I just want it to happen.' "
Late on a Wednesday night in January 2010, an ambulance accompanied by two police cars drove to the house in Tel Aviv where Aguiar was staying with a friend, according to the newspaper Haaretz, and transported him to a mental hospital south of the city.
Earlier that day, he had made some strange statements during one of his many interviews with a local paper, implying that he had ventured into the embattled Gaza Strip to single-handedly free imprisoned Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit had been abducted by Palestinians in 2006; he was the first such hostage since 1994, and fighting for his release had become a national cause.
"He's at one of my properties," Aguiar reportedly said. "I have saved thousands of people, not only Gilad Shalit." To the media, it was an outlandish boast; to Jamie, it was just the latest outburst and a source of major embarrassment for the family. (Shalit was eventually released in 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians jailed by Israel.) She arranged by court order to have him committed, cooperating with his mother to declare him mentally unstable. The family released a statement, blaming the incident on stress from his uncle's lawsuit.
At home, the marriage was fraying. In June 2011, Jamie had Aguiar arrested for domestic violence while she was pregnant with their fourth child. Jamie said he threatened to take their kids to Israel, cease contact with her, and "put a bullet" in her father's head. She claimed he had multiple mistresses and had given one of them her clothes.
The next month, Guma filed for divorce, giving no official explanation other than that the marriage was "irretrievably broken," a standard legal term. The divorce petition said assets should be divided according to the prenuptial agreement — the one that was written before Aguiar came into his drilling windfall.
Guma eventually backed down, and the divorce did not go through. Last spring, Jamie, who had lawyered up on her own, fired back with a lawsuit saying Aguiar had admitted to concealing his expected wealth when drafting the prenup. In court papers, she cited his manic-depressive, sometimes-violent mental history.
While his wife described him as unstable, Aguiar's uncle argued that Aguiar knew what he was doing and was competent to face lawsuits. To settle the matter, the judge on the federal case ordered Aguiar's mental-health records from Israel to be made available to Kaplan's legal team. That order went through on June 18 of this year.
The next night, Aguiar disappeared.
Footage from a security camera at Aguiar's home shows him pacing back and forth on the outdoor walkways, barefoot, wearing a gray-green T-shirt and black shorts, around 6:30 p.m. He holds his phone to his ear for an instant, then looks around. Later, another camera catches his boat, the T.T. Zion, leaving its berth in the canal.
A boat captain who had been performing a burial at sea during the rough weather told police that he saw the T.T. Zion moving at high speeds, "wave-jumping" over the swells, as it headed into open water.
The GPS log shows a quick, straight course northeast. Then, in a tight diagonal loop, the boat turned abruptly and stopped moving. This is where it began drifting back to shore. Later, police found that the tie bar connecting the two engines had snapped, which they say might have caused the boat to move erratically.
Levine, the filmmaker who was helping Aguiar write his story, says aloud what some people still cannot: that Aguiar fell off the boat accidentally and drowned. "I think he had a really bad day and made some bad decisions: to take the boat out when the weather was bad and not to wear a life vest."