South Florida

Unlicensed Miami yacht captain sentenced to three years in prison for killing passenger

Miami Archives

Mauricio Alvarez, an unlicensed Miami boat captain who pleaded guilty to criminal misconduct after one of his passengers died while being sucked up by the propeller of a 91-foot yacht, has been sentenced to about three years in federal prison.

Raul Menendez and six of his friends spent April 1 aboard the luxurious yacht named “Miami Vice” on a cruise to Monument Island. Menendez, 25, and his friends paid $3,000 for the four-hour cruise on Biscayne Bay, piloted by Alvarez, 49, and his son, Andrew Tarcisio, as first mate.

After some time docked off the island’s shore, Alvarez started the engines and put the massive boat in reverse just before 5 p.m. According to a criminal complaint, he didn’t check to make sure he was clear to back up, and the boat hit two of the passengers swimming behind the ship.

Immediately, a man identified as a “second passenger” yelled to Alvarez that “he could not feel his legs.” Alvarez told investigators he shut off the engine, ran to the back of the boat and jumped in the water to pull the injured man to safety.

“Once the engines stopped, the second passenger noticed a cloud of blood in the water,” the complaint read.

Menendez was killed.

Alvarez told investigators “he regretted not ensuring every passenger knew that he was going to start the [yacht’s] engines,” and that his son was standing right next to him when he started the engines.

He also said he didn’t have a U.S. Captain’s license, formal training in operating a boat or experience piloting a yacht that size. Weeks earlier, the Coast Guard issued Alvarez a violation for operating an illegal charter as an unlicensed captain.

Four days after Menendez’s death, federal investigators noticed Alvarez had booked a flight to Panama City, Panama, and called him. He told them he’d been working with Miami Vice for about six months and had completed 40 chartered trips. He told authorities he was planning a trip to Orlando to visit family.

Police officers caught Alvarez and his son at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport with “several large bags,” all set to fly to Panama.

In August, Alvarez pleaded guilty to the charge of neglect resulting in Menendez’s death in Miami federal court. Last week, U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga sentenced him to about three years in prison.

The yacht’s owner, Laurent Marc-Antoine Jean Maubert-Cayla, was later arrested and pleaded guilty to a similar charge. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 10 before U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno.

The U.S. Coast Guard arrested Randy Postma, the owner of the Golden Touch II, on allegations he illegally ran a party yacht off the waters of Miami.