Charter Captain Pleads Guilty to Misconduct or Neglect that Resulted in Death
Mauricio Alvarez, 49, of Miami, Florida, pled guilty today, before U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, to misconduct or neglect of a ship officer that resulted in the death of an individual, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1115.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney of the Southern District of Florida, Zinnia P. James, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), Southeast Region and Major Alfredo Escanio, Regional Commander, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Division of Law Enforcement, South B Region, made the announcement.
“Illegal charter boat operations pose a grave danger to the public’s safety,” stated U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg. “Before embarking on an excursion, we implore all passengers to confirm that the charter boat company and captain are authorized to operate. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our USCG and FWC partners will continue to enforce all federal criminal laws and maritime regulations and hold the violators accountable, so that residents and visitors can safely enjoy South Florida’s open waters.”
"Tragically people have lost their lives on illegal charters, as was seen in the case of the vessel Jaguar in the Tampa Bay area and in the case of the Miami Vice yacht in Miami," said Capt. Ladonn Allen, Chief of the Coast Guard Seventh District Prevention Department. "The unsafe atmospheres that these types of companies and unlicensed captains, who knowingly engage in illegal activity, create on their boats show a complete disregard for passenger safety and have been responsible for multiple deaths in Florida alone. We cannot stress enough to anyone looking to charter a boat to verify the captain’s license and safety of the vessel."
"The results of this case send a strong message to anyone looking to operate a charter boat illegally," said Capt. Michael Fazio, Staff Judge Advocate for the Coast Guard's Seventh District in Miami. "We will continue to work with our Department of Justice partners to investigate, enforce, and hold accountable these reckless companies and operators who take shortcuts and care only about the money they can make while subverting the regulations and licensing designed to prevent tragedies such as this one."
“The work performed by investigators with all of the agencies involved in this case was exemplary, and we at the FWC appreciate the work done by the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office to reach a lawful resolution to this tragedy,” stated Major Alfredo Escanio, FWC.
According to the court record, including the agreed upon factual proffer, on April 1, 2018, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) received a report from a Miami-Dade 911 operator that a person was trapped under the motor yacht (M/Y) MIAMI VICE, near Monument Island. USCG and local law enforcement units arrived at the scene of the reported incident and located M/Y MIAMI VICE adjacent to Monument Island. An investigation by FWC revealed M/Y MIAMI VICE was chartered for a four-hour period on April 1, 2018 and departed a marina with approximately seven passengers. Alvarez was employed as the vessel captain of M/Y MIAMI VICE and had a first mate on board the vessel. M/Y MIAMI VICE had been chartered for a four-hour trip for $3,000 and Alvarez was to be paid $150 per hour.
Two passengers were reportedly in the water in close proximity to the stern of M/Y MIAMI VICE when Alvarez engaged the engines of M/Y MIAMI VICE in reverse. One of the individuals, who was swimming in the water, was struck by M/Y MIAMI VICE’s propellers and killed. Alvarez, as the operator of the M/Y MIAMI VICE, could not see the stern of the vessel or ensure the safety of any remaining swimmers in the water while engaging the engines from this location without assistance from another individual. Alvarez did not have a United States Captain license at the time of the incident.
Alvarez is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Altonaga on November 19, 2018 at 9:00 a.m., in Miami.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of CGIS and FWC in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Marcet and Coast Guard Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Jones.