One Way Out: Millionaire Guma Aguiar Disappeared Off Fort Lauderdale Beach; Where Could He Have Gone? | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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One Way Out: Millionaire Guma Aguiar Disappeared Off Fort Lauderdale Beach; Where Could He Have Gone?

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According to Jamie, seven days after they signed the agreement, Kaplan made Aguiar a 10-percent partner. Aguiar, who just a few years earlier had been helping retirees with their tennis strokes, suddenly had wealth and power. By 2007, he had hired a high-school tennis mate, Graydon Oliver, and his brother-in-law, Corey Drew. Kaplan later said Aguiar doled out payments to sister Angelika Aguiar Drew and others, spending the company's cash as he saw fit.

In the fall of 2007, with the ventures raking in money, EnCana offered to buy out Kap­lan and Aguiar. The price for all of Leor's holdings in the newly dubbed "Amoruso Field": $2.55 billion.

Ten percent of that — $255 million — was enough to make Aguiar a very rich man. He started spending money on luxury items like cars and boats. And increasingly, he turned his focus to Judaism.

Aguiar got Jamie to convert. He began traveling to Israel frequently and buying properties in Jerusalem.

He introduced his father to Rabbi Lipszyc. Otto Aguiar had been desperate for a cure for his pain, traveling back and forth to Brazil in the later years of his life for apitherapy treatments, in which he was injected with 60 stings' worth of bee venom. Just before Otto died on a bed in Holy Cross Hospital in 2006, he said he wanted to be buried in Israel, though he'd never converted.

Guma also brought his mother and siblings into the fold. He even set one Jerusalem house aside as a gift to his mother. In 2007, he sent an email to her: "I have enclosed some pictures of your apartment in Jerusalem... I hope you love the beautiful 360-degree sweeping views from the 'veranda...' I always promised you a 'comfortable' place to retire to," he wrote.

Aguiar was as intense and impulsive as ever, but now his efforts could make a difference. In what is now the "Guma Aguiar Family Campus" of Chabad Lubavitch in the Galt Ocean Mile stretch of Fort Lauderdale, Lipszyc recalls a time when Aguiar overheard him talking about a troublesome personal debt of $10,000. The next week, there was a check for $10,000 in the collection box. Lipszyc says Aguiar once went to the hospital to sit for an entire Sabbath with a Brazilian man he did not know; perhaps he was reminded of his father. The rabbi says Aguiar appeared on his doorstep at 2:30 one morning; he wanted to go out and feed the homeless. So the two of them went to Publix and bought rotisserie chickens, then traipsed around the neighborhood to find hungry people. One homeless man said he wanted cigarettes and beer, not food. So Guma was off to the convenience store. When he couldn't help someone who asked, the rabbi says, Aguiar would torture himself over it.

He pressured his wealthy uncle to donate more to Jewish causes. Kaplan's chief project was Panthera, an organization that works to preserve big-cat habitat and encourage species reproduction. One of Aguiar's associates remembers his grousing about Kaplan's wasting time and money as a "jaguar gynecologist." The associate says that Kaplan eventually got wind of the comment and that this would later drive the two apart.

On March 6, 2008, a Palestinian gunman shot into a crowd of students at the Mercaz HaRav religious school in Jerusalem, killing eight. That night, just after midnight, Aguiar called the man who had talked him into Judaism, Tovia Singer, who had become a close friend. "Let's move to Israel," he said. Singer, who had plenty of family there, agreed and booked flights for each of them to depart the next day. Aguiar brought over his wife and young children as well. Both men would continue to divide their time between Jerusalem and the United States.

A year later, Aguiar became famous when he offered to invest several million dollars in the popular but ailing Beitar Jerusalem soccer team. He followed up a few months later with an investment in the city's biggest basketball team. For Israelis, Aguiar's good looks and macho optimism were a welcome break from the backroom scandals of team ownership. Newspaper headlines referred to him simply as "Guma."

Singer said that women began to throw themselves at Aguiar. Jamie would later allege that he had multiple mistresses. Friends knew him to smoke pot. Lipszyc said Guma did not see relaxing as being at odds with his religion. He recalls Aguiar telling him once, "Even when I'm partying, God is with me."

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph

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