Florida Keys

They were on a ‘honeymoon’ to Cuba — but they stole the yacht they used for the trip

Aaron Burmeister and Ashley McNeil, of Big Pine Key, admitted they swiped the 40-foot catamaran sailboat, named the Kaisosi, on March 30 from a Lower Keys harbor so they could leave America behind and take a “honeymoon” to Cuba.
Aaron Burmeister and Ashley McNeil, of Big Pine Key, admitted they swiped the 40-foot catamaran sailboat, named the Kaisosi, on March 30 from a Lower Keys harbor so they could leave America behind and take a “honeymoon” to Cuba. Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

A Keys couple who quit their jobs to sail to Cuba have pleaded guilty to stealing the sailboat they used.

Aaron Burmeister, 46, and Ashley McNeil, 32, of Big Pine Key, admitted they swiped the 40-foot catamaran sailboat, named the Kaisosi, on March 30 from a Lower Keys harbor so they could leave America behind and take a “honeymoon” to Cuba.

They were arrested two days later, April 1, near the resort town of Varadero on Cuba’s northern coast. They spent the next six months locked up in Cuba.

They were returned to the U.S. in September and promptly arrested at Miami International Airport by federal agents.

Burmeister told police they assumed the boat had been abandoned in the waters off Little Torch Key in Newfound Harbor. They were underway when they realized it belonged to someone.

Each faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to transport a vessel in foreign commerce.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 7 at U. S. District Court in Key West before Judge Lawrence King. They both pleaded guilty Nov. 13.

In exchange for their pleas, the government agreed to drop the second charge against them — transporting a vessel in foreign commerce, which carries up to 10 years upon conviction.

The Kaisosi’s owner, Hector Cisneros, said he bought the boat in 2017 for $350,000.

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Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.


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