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


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

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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."

But for some reason, that story isn't enough for the public and those who knew Aguiar. It seems too mundane, too accidental, for a man who moved as strongly as Aguiar. Maybe he was murdered. Maybe he was kidnapped. Maybe he committed suicide. Maybe he was picked up by some mysterious accomplice. His body has not been found, and police continue to treat the case as an open missing-person investigation.

"There was a time when I was really hoping that he was here, in a hotel somewhere in Fort Lauderdale, just watching the show," says Levine.

"I don't know what happened out there. But I will hope like mad," says John Amoruso, the geologist.

"He had every incentive to get away," says Rabbi Tovia Singer.

"I would love to see Guma in the South of France, living the good life. Just leaning back, letting life come to him a little bit," says Gary Kesl, the tennis coach.

"I believe very strongly that his soul is at peace," says Rabbi Lipszyc. "I believe that he's been released from all these tests that he had. I hope and pray that wherever he is, he's OK — and not torturing himself."

The recovered boat showed no signs of a struggle, but there were indications of what might have happened onboard. He had removed the keys and wallet from his pockets. But investigators would find one other thing on the boat: a Jewish tefillin, or collection of scrolls to be worn close to the body during morning prayer. These ancient, leather-bound words of the Torah, which are never allowed to touch the ground, accompanied Guma as he sped away into the ocean, heading toward the horizon under darkening skies, the lights of Fort Lauderdale receding in his wake.

He clearly planned something big that night. We may never know what.

News reports since his disappearance have centered on the legal dispute over his remaining fortune, which has been claimed by his uncle, mother, and wife. Ellen Aguiar moved to take control of his assets immediately after he was reported missing, and Jamie fought back. Attorneys began to tie up the various credit cards and accounts through which Aguiar had diffused his money and enthusiasm in Jerusalem. The bulk of his money — Guma's fortune is roughly $100 million, according to his mother — is currently under the control of two court-appointed conservators — big-shot lawyer Tom Panza and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, who is also an attorney.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph

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