Mother of missing Florida philanthropist files for control of fortune

Mother of missing Florida philanthropist files for control of fortune

Move by Ellen Aguiar angers Guma Aguiar's wife; crews release surveillance tape, call off search

The mother of Jewish philanthropist Guma Aguiar, who went missing off the Florida coast last week, filed an emergency petition on Thursday to take control of his $75-$100 million in assets, angering some family members.

Aguiar’s boat washed ashore in South Florida with nobody on it on Wednesday. Police called off a search for him on Friday. A body found in a canal in Palm Beach, near where his boat came ashore, initially thought to be his, turned out to be someone else.

On Thursday, Ellen Aguiar filed a petition to take control of the energy tycoon’s assets, which include $35 million in Israeli real estate, $15 million in cash, a $2 million yacht and seven cars worth more than $1 million.

The move reportedly angered Aguiar’s wife, Jamie Aguiar.

Also on Friday, police released surveillance video from Aguiar’s home, showing him in the moments before he took his boat out in choppy conditions Tuesday evening.

Police are still trying to piece together why Aguiar took his boat out in inclement weather. They say they found no sign of injury or struggle on the boat.

According to court documents filed by Ellen Aguiar, her son suffers from severe bipolar disorder and “may be in a delusion state or be suffering from psychosis or otherwise may have disappeared at sea.”

“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 emergency petition to take guardianship of his assets states, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

On Friday, the shades were drawn at Aguiar’s property and no one answered the door. His wife declined comment through a family spokesman and his mother’s phone had been temporarily disconnected. Friends declined to talk on the record to The Associated Press.

Aguiar made a fortune in 2006 when the Texas-based energy company he ran with his uncle was sold for a reported $2.5 billion. But he has been locked in a contentious legal battle with his uncle over money.

His wife’s attorneys said they were horrified by Ellen Aguiar’s attempts to gain control of the estate, saying it has only added to the family’s stress.

“She files motions in courts trying to take over everything while the divers are still out looking for Guma’s body,” said attorney Bill Scherer. “It’s bizarre.”

He planned to respond her motion, but said everything is premature right now.

Scherer said the past year was especially difficult for Jamie Aguiar, who was pregnant while her husband was hospitalized for mental illness. He moved back into the house after he was released several months ago and has been more emotionally stable since then, Scherer said.

“She’s hoping that he’s had another mental breakdown and that he’s out there somewhere and will come walking back when he gets himself stabilized,” he said.

Family members said the legal battles had taken an emotional toll on Aguiar in recent years. His family checked him into a psychiatric hospital in Tel Aviv in 2010 after claiming he entered the Gaza Strip and met with an Israeli soldier held there by Hamas militants. Aguiar’s family said at the time he’d been under “intensive emotional pressures” and “psychological terrorism,” because of the lawsuit.

There were other signs of trouble at home.

His wife filed a domestic violence order against him last summer. A short time later, he filed for dissolution of marriage, but both were voluntarily dismissed, according to court documents. Around that same time, his wife and mother successfully petitioned a Miami-Dade County judge to appoint an emergency guardian for him for 90 days.

In 2009, he pleaded no contest to drug charges after deputies said they found marijuana in his Bentley during a traffic stop.

Aguiar has given millions to Israeli and Jewish causes. While he was raised Christian, his mother is Jewish, and he converted to Judaism about a decade ago.

He has said he plans to rebuild the biblical Jewish temple in Jerusalem and has donated millions to a foundation that helps Jews move to Israel. In Fort Lauderdale, Chabad Lubavitch, a traditional Hasidic group, named their family campus after him.

Aguiar has been a well-known fixture in Israel since his $4 million investment saved the Israeli Premier League soccer team Beitar Jerusalem a few years ago.


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