MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A charter yacht owner pleaded guilty Monday to a federal charge of misconduct or neglect of a ship officer that resulted in the death of a passenger, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Ariana Fajardo Orshan announced Wednesday in a news release.
According to court records, Laurent Marc-Antoine Jean Maubert-Cayla, originally of France, is a part-owner of the Miami Vice, a 91-foot performance yacht that is offered for charters.
Federal prosecutors said Maubert-Cayla hired Mauricio Alvarez, 49, in November 2017 to drive the yacht during charters, although he knew Alvarez did not have a valid U.S. Coast Guard license.
In fact, 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 4500 horsepower engines and accelerated them in reverse.
The victim, Raul Pigueiras Menendez, 25, of Hialeah, was swimming directly behind the yacht and was killed by the propellers, authorities said.
Alvarez has also pleaded guilty to misconduct or neglect of a ship officer that resulted in the death of an individual. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 28.
Maubert-Cayla is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10.