US Coast Guard busts 3 illegal charter operations in Miami over weekend

Vessels targeted include 147-foot yacht with 47 people onboard

(U.S. Coast Guard)

MIAMI – The U.S. Coast Guard shut down three illegal charter boat operations over the weekend in Miami, Coast Guard officials announced Monday in a news release.

According to the press release, Coast Guard officials stopped a 147-foot yacht called Golden Touch II on Sunday near Nixon Beach after noticing some safety issues, including that it was carrying more paying passengers than it was certified to carry.

Authorities said crew members boarded the yacht, which had 47 people aboard, and discovered several violations, including that it did not have a valid certificate of inspection, failure to have a drug and alcohol program and failure to have a valid stability letter.

"Tragically people have lost their lives on illegal charters, as was seen in the case of the vessel Jaguar in the Tampa Bay area and in the case of the Miami Vice yacht in Miami," said Capt. Ladonn Allen, chief of Coast Guard 7th District prevention department. "The unsafe atmospheres that these types of companies and unlicensed captains, who knowingly engage in illegal activity, create on their boats show a complete disregard for passenger safety and have been responsible for multiple deaths in Florida alone. We cannot stress enough to anyone looking to charter a boat to verify the captain’s license and safety of the vessel."

Coast Guard officials said the owner and operator of the yacht faces up to a maximum fine of more than $41,000 for the illegal passenger-for-hire operation.

Details about the other two busts were not immediately released.

The incidents come months after a 25-year-old man from Hialeah was killed while chartering the Miami Vice yacht.

The yacht owner was arrested and charged with charged with misconduct or neglect of a ship officer that resulted in the death of an individual.

Federal prosecutors said Laurent Marc-Antoine Jean Maubert-Cayla hired Mauricio Alvarez, 49, in November 2017 to drive the 91-foot performance yacht during charters, although he knew that Alvarez did not have a valid U.S. Coast Guard license and had witnessed him using cocaine.

Alvarez was cited by the Coast Guard in March for operating a charter without the appropriate license, prosecutors said.

A month later, on April 1, a group of friends chartered the yacht and Alvarez drove it at a high rate of speed and beached it at Monument Island, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Alvarez did not check to ensure that all his passengers were out of the water when it was time to leave, and he started the yacht's 4,500 horsepower engines and accelerated them in reverse.

The victim, Raul Pigueiras Menendez, was swimming directly behind the yacht and was killed by the propellers, authorities said.

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