Feds bust Miami party yacht in latest arrest of illegal charter-boat operators
Packed with bikini-clad models, liquor, drugs and often a celebrity or two, the party yacht is peak Miami.
But many of the cruises are considered illegal. The feds are cracking down.
In the latest bust in the U.S. Coast Guard’s crusade against illegal charter boats, agents raided the 147-foot Golden Touch II, as it was docked Sunday at the swank Seaspice Brasserie and Lounge on the Miami River. The case was made after an undercover agent rented the yacht for $9,000.
Arrested was the boat’s owner: Randy Frank Postma, who was charged with disobeying orders to not run an illegal charter operation. He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Video of the bust obtained by the Miami Herald showed agents dressed in black standing guard as a ring of women in bikinis checked their phones — all while a DJ continued spinning electronic dance music.
“Similar illegal charters, in the past, have causes accidents resulting in property damage, injuries and death,” according to a criminal complaint by U.S. Coast Guard Special Agent Jeremy Baldwin.
Postma’s arrest is the latest in a series of federal operations aimed at cracking down on illegal charters in the wake of the April death of a passenger of the yacht called the Miami Vice.
In that case, a Hialeah man and six of his friends paid $3,000 for a four-hour cruise aboard the 91-foot yacht piloted by 49-year-old Mauricio Alvarez and his 22-year-old son, Andrew Tarcisio. After spending time docked at Monument Island, Alvarez put the massive boat in reverse but didn’t check to see if anyone was in the water behind the ship.
Raul Menedez, 25, was killed when he was sucked into the propellers. Federal prosecutors say Alvarez didn’t have a U.S. captain’s license or any formal training required for operating a boat that size.
He had pleaded guilty to misconduct on a ship that resulted in a death. Alvarez will be sentenced Nov. 19.
Since then, the Coast Guard has made cracking down on party boats a priority.
“We can’t stress enough the importance of asking the captain to verify his license and looking into the charter company that you are going to book. If you notice anything suspicious contact the Coast Guard,” said Miami Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Kelley.
“Furthermore, if the captain of the charter asks anyone to mislead federal officers or Coast Guard boarding team members by lying to them, this should be an instant red flag. I would urge charter passengers to not partake in this activity, if you do, you also could be found in violation of federal law.”
Last month, agents busted Miami businessman Seth Gissen on allegation he ran an illegal charter boat called the No Rules. He was indicted Tuesday on a series of federal charges.
Gissen’s boat was well-known on the party circuit — and a bane to his neighbors that complained about unruly parties at his home. Gissen frequently posted photos of himself with professional athletes and rappers who attended parties on the No Rules.
Federal prosecutors say that Gissen repeatedly ignored orders to stop running his operation, and one one occasion, even told his passengers to lie to the Coast Guard. When a Coast Guard vessel tried stopping the yacht in Biscayne Bay last month, it “appeared heavily loaded with people” and began discharging sewage on the government boat.
“He’s a free spirit,” said his attorney, Joel Hirschhorn. “I don’t think he really realized you need a license captain.”
Postma’s case is not related, even though he was arrested well after news of the Gissen’s arrested hit the news.
Like Gissen, Postma regularly advertised the charter, and posted photos with celebrities and pretty women aboard the boat.
According to a federal complaint, the Coast Guard boarded the Golden Touch for a routine inspection on Aug. 19 and discovered it was operating as an illegal charter. Five days later, the Coast Guard issued an official order ordering him to stop.
On Aug. 30, an undercover agent met with Postma, paying him a $2,500 deposit for a cruise. The next day, the agent paid the $6,500 balance and the ship set sail — with three undercover agents posing as paying passengers, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.
During the voyage, the Coast Guard again boarded the yacht. Prosecutors say Postma’s wife and one his employees instructed passengers to say they had not paid for the voyage.
“The undercover agents did not break cover and complied with the instructions,” according to the criminal complaint.
The boat was let off without any arrests. But the next afternoon, the undercover agent who charted the boat returned to party on the boat docked at Seaspice.
For about four hours, a throng of women and men partied on the boat. One attendee told the Miami Herald the undercover agent “looked sketchy” but everyone was having a good time as a DJ played electronic music and alcohol flowed.
“We ate pizza outside, hung out,” said the attendee, who asked not to be named. “Then the undercover guy said the Coast Guard is coming. “It was like a movie. Literally like a movie.”