Miami-Dade County

Yacht owner admits hiring cocaine-snorting unlicensed captain for boat’s fatal charter

Laurent Marc-Antoine Jean Maubert-Cayla, part owner of the Miami Vice yacht and responsible for its operations, has pleaded guilty in a case stemming from the death of 25-year-old Raul Menendez in the boat’s propellers.
Laurent Marc-Antoine Jean Maubert-Cayla, part owner of the Miami Vice yacht and responsible for its operations, has pleaded guilty in a case stemming from the death of 25-year-old Raul Menendez in the boat’s propellers. via MiamiVice.biz

Laurent Marc-Antoine Jean Maubert-Cayla had seen Mauricio Alvarez drink a lot. Maubert-Cayla shot video in his car of Alvarez snorting cocaine as they rolled around Miami Beach. Also, he knew Alvarez wasn’t a licensed boat captain.

None of that prevented Maubert-Cayla from putting Alvarez at the helm of 91-foot yacht Miami Vice for an illegal charter trip around Biscayne Bay on April 1. That trip ended with 25-year-old passenger Raul Menendez killed in the boat’s propellers when Alvarez made fundamental mistakes.

Maubert-Cayla, 39, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to misconduct or neglect of a ship officer that resulted in the death of an individual. He’ll be sentenced Jan. 10, 2018 by U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno.

Alvarez will be sentenced Nov. 28 after pleading guilty to misconduct on a ship resulting in a death. But, as Maubert-Cayla’s admission of facts shows, the tragic trip should not have taken place at all — and would not have taken place without Maubert-Cayla’s deception and disregard for the safety of anything but the $3,000 rental fee.

The Miami Vice is owned mostly by TM Yaching Charter LLC, and Maubert-Cayla’s admission says he’s a TM Yachting managing member (although the company doesn’t list him as it should on sunbiz.com). He owns 20 percent of the Miami Vice. He was “primarily responsible for the maintenance and chartering” of the yacht, which he chartered to customers seeking the “unique charter experience” Maubert-Cayla advertised through brokers.

Two unique parts of the experience: The yacht wasn’t insured for charter operations and the captain wasn’t licensed for charter operations.

Maubert-Cayla knew the former. His insurance broker, Kolish Insurance, made sure he had a copy of the policy stating the lack of coverage. Maubert-Cayla made sure Kolish didn’t know he was operating the Miami Vice as a charter boat. When he tried to add charter coverage in March, he was told to make sure “the approved Captain holds all applicable licenses.”

Alvarez had no applicable licenses.

Maubert-Cayla saw Alvarez dock the yacht once and hired him as Miami Vice’s charter captain. From November 2017 through Menendez’s death, Alvarez played captain on charters though Maubert-Cayla knew he didn’t have a U.S. Coast Guard license to captain charters with passengers. Alvarez and TM Yachting Charter got citations on March 18 for operating a commercial charter without a U.S. Coast Guard license.

“During this time, (Maubert-Cayla) also occasionally socialized with Alvarez and learned that Alvarez was a heavy drinker who also frequently used cocaine,” the statement of facts said.

In fact, Maubert-Cayla’s admission says that on March 29, he took cellphone video of Alvarez while they rode around Miami Beach. Maubert-Cayla narrated, in French, “the captain takes vitamins.”

“After Alvarez — “le capitaine” — snorted what appeared to be cocaine from the pink baggie, he screamed into thee camera,” the statement said.

Maubert-Cayla also said, in French, “That’s how we do it. Look at his hands,” as he panned the camera to Alvarez’s hands, in which sat a bag of blow.

Alvarez was driving a large yacht less than eight hours later and the Miami Vice the next day. On April 1, Menendez and a friend, C.M., chartered the Miami Vice for C.M.’s birthday. When they got to the Sea Isle Marina, Menendez found the yacht dirty, certainly not suited for a charter.

Maubert-Cayla greeted their request for canceling the reservation with financial bullying — they would lose their $2,000 deposit if they didn’t pony up the remaining $1,000 as planned. They gave up the cash and left with four friends on the Miami Vice, captained by Alvarez with his son as first mate.

Alvarez beached the Miami Vice at Monument Island. C.M. and Menendez began swimming in the water behind the yacht.

“A reasonable, USCG licensed captain would not have attempted to approach Monument Island in a yacht the size of the Miami Vice,” the statement of facts said, “nor would a reasonable captain have beached the yacht on the island because doing so would require the captain to engage in the act of reversing the large yacht off the island to leave.”

C.M. and Menendez were taking a second swim behind the yacht when Alvarez started the engines. Neither he nor his son checked to make sure everyone was on board or at least not behind the yacht. Nor did he announce the yacht was leaving or have anyone be a pair of eyes to the rear.

When Alvarez put the boat into reverse, Menendez got pulled into the propellers. The medical examiner found “deep lacerations in the head, chest, heck, pelvis and torso that were consistent with a large yacht propeller repeatedly striking” Menendez.

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