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Friday, June 22, 2012

Guma Aguiar: the search ends for missing millionaire who vanished from boat as troubled past and tumultuous legal battle with uncle revealed

The second day of searches for missing Fort Lauderdale multimillionaire Guma Aguiar began Thursday with a sunrise flight over the Atlantic Ocean by aU.S. Coast Guard HC-144 plane.

The Coast Guard suspended its rescue mission around 9 p.m. Thursday.

While authorities investigate what happened to the 35-year-old investor who is believed to have gone boating Tuesday night, his mother filed documents Thursday in Broward County court seeking to become conservator or temporary guardian of his nearly $100 million fortune.

Aguiar's 31-foot fishing boat, the T.T. Zion, washed onto Fort Lauderdale beach about 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, its lights on and twin outboard engines running.

Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Travis Mandell said Thursday investigators believe Aguiar got in the boat alone, "but that's not to say he didn't meet up with anyone."

Ellen Aguiar's petition says her son "disappeared as the result of mental derangement or other mental cause" or disappeared "under circumstances indicating that he may have died, either naturally, accidentally or at the hands of another." It further states that he suffers from "severe bipolar disorder."

The missing man's cellphone and wallet were found on the boat by police, the 59-year-old Ellen Aguiar, of Pompano Beach, says in her filing.

He was last seen by the family nanny at home around 7 p.m. Tuesday, the petition states.

Aguiar kept his boat and his 77-foot yacht Zion berthed at his home in the 1500 block of Southeast 10th Street.

"Everyone is trying to figure out why he got in that boat," Mandell said. The National Weather Service had issued a small-craft warning for winds of 15 to 20 knots, seas up to 5 feet and isolated thunderstorms.

The Brazilian-born Aguiar made his fortune in oil and gas. He attended Westminster Academy Christian school in Fort Lauderdale, and spent one year at Clemson University as a business management major on a tennis scholarship before he left in 1999.

He and his wife Jaime, 33, have three boys and one girl, ages 7 to 10 months.

Aguiar returned to his Jewish faith a decade ago, his rabbi said. He has made charitable gifts to religious and Israeli causes, and invested in professional soccer and basketball teams there.

Despite his success, however, Aquiar has had his share of troubles. In January 2010, Aguiar was forcibly admitted to an Israeli psychiatric hospital after claiming he had visited a soldier who had been abducted by Hamas fighters, according to Israeli media reports.

Court documents also indicate that in July 2011, Aguiar's wife and mother successfully petitioned a Miami-Dade judge to appoint an emergency guardian for him for 90 days.

In 2009, Aguiar claimed Broward sheriff's deputies beat him after a traffic stop and made anti-Semitic remarks, comments an agency spokesman called "ludicrous."

Aguiar pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor drug charges arising from the traffic stop and avoided serving time on probation or in jail.

Broward County Clerk of Courts dockets indicate Aguiar is currrently on probation after pleading no contest in February to charges related to a domestic violence case.

He has a $50 million investment portfolio: $15 million in cash and $35 million in Israeli real estate, according to his mother's emergency petition.

"There is an imminent danger that the property of the absentee is in danger of being wasted, misappropriated or lost unless immediate action is taken because the absentee has disappeared … and assets must be protected from waste and/or dissipation," the petition states.

Aguiar seeks support for her son's spouse and children, and the authority to respond to lawsuits, manage his properties and pay mortgages and employees' salaries.

His home is valued at $5 million, "approximately" seven cars are worth $1.1 million, and the yacht is valued at $2.1 million, it states.

A known philanthropist, the Brazilian born millionaire has donated $8 million in the past to Nefesh b'Nefesh, an organisation that helps American and British Jews move to Israel.

Aguiar is also a large supporter of the 'March of the Living' which is an educational program in Poland and Israel designed to continue public awareness of the Holocaust in those countries.

He also became a regular on Israeli sports pages when he invested $4 million into Israeli Premier League soccer team Beitar Jerusalem in July 2009.

In September 2009, Aguiar also purchased Jerusalem's leading basetball franchise Hapoel Jerusalem for $1.5 million.

Despite his family and business interests, Aguiar has a history of mental illness and was admitted to an Israeli psychiatric hostpital after claiming to know a soldier in Israel who had been abducted by the terrorist group Hamas.

And court documents indicate that in 2011, Aguiar's wife Jaime and his mother, successfully petitioned a Miami-Dade judge to appoint an emergency guardian for him.

In addition, Aguiar and his uncle, Thomas Kaplan have been locked in litigation over the $2.55 billion sale of an energy company they co-founded called Leor Exploration and Production LLC which was involved in gas extraction in Texas.

Kaplan brought a January 2009 lawsuit against his nephew in which he said Aguiar claimed he was the Messiah.

Aguiar denied making this claim.

'People have said what an amazing accomplishment it was that I started a company at 26 from nothing and built it up to be so successful,' Aguiar told the Sun Sentinel in 2009.

'When I sold the company, I gave credit to God.'

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