The wife and mother of missing mentally ill millionaire Guma Aguiar squared off in a South Florida courtroom as allegations of greed, marital trouble and a staged disappearance flew.
Ultimately, lawyers on both sides determined Thursday that one of Aguiar's attorneys should handle his legal entanglements, while most of his assets will continue being managed by a Northern Trust, a bank Aguiar designated to represent him in his will.
But there was plenty of drama to go around as a packed courtroom witnessed lawyers for Jamie Aguiar face her mother-in-law Ellen and Ellen Aguiar's attorney, Richard Baron.
"Ellen Aguiar over here has been on the gravy train for years," gestured Jamie Aguiar's attorney, William Scherer, who according to WSVN questioned whether Aguiar and his mother schemed to stage his disappearance. 35-year-old Aguiar left his $5 million waterfront mansion last Tuesday in his fishing boat; it washed ashore Wednesday on Fort Lauderdale Beach with its lights on and engine running, but no sign of the missing oil tycoon.
"We have not heard from and have not had any confirmed sightings of Guma Aguilar at this point," testified Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. Steve Novak. A sobbing Jamie Aguiar fled the court with the judge's permission.
It was also claimed in court that almost half of Aguiar's imperiled fortune is gone, heightening the urgency to preserve the estate which supports his family and four young children. Though the college dropout earned $180 million from the 2007 sale of a Texas energy company he started with his uncle, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a lawsuit between the two men has cost $25 million to $30 million in legal fees that threaten Aguiar's fortune.
It was revealed that Aguiar potentially faces a trial for damages after allegedly hacking into his uncle's computer to obtain documents related to the case, according to the Sun-Sentinel report.
Poor investments have already cut into the fortune, too: "He received 180 million," Scherer told the court. "About half of it is gone."
The court does not have jurisdiction over some $40 million invested in real estate and sports teams in Israel that according to the Miami Herald Scherer said were in danger of bankrupting the family.
Court records show Aguiar, who suffers from severe bipolar disorder, has been hospitalized several times, was once given a court-appointed guardian, and was according to friends suffering from extreme stress over the lawsuits, recently transfered guardianship of his estate in his will from his wife to his mother -- just two months after filing a similar document with the women's roles reversed. But Ellen Aguiar moved to control the fortune before Coast Guard divers had even called off a 2-day search for her son's body, prompting criticism -- and, in court, questions about whether her son purposefully disappeared, possibly with her help.
After backlash from her daughter-in-law, whom she accuses of telling her son hours before his disappearance that she wanted a divorce, Ellen Aguiar amended her filing to ask that the third-party bank control her son's estate.
The Herald reports Fort Lauderdale police have not issued any search warrants or interviewed Aguiar's business associates -- and turned his cell phone over to his mother a day after finding it on his boat:
Scherer said that police erred by turning over Aguiar’s cell phone to his mother the day after he went missing. The phone, Scherer said, may likely provide key clues as to Aguiar’s movements before his disappearance. Now that evidence could very well be tainted.
“There could have been some very important information on that cell phone,” Scherer said outside the courtroom, adding that Jamie Aguiar has already hired private detectives to try to find out what happened, hoping for the best.
"I know what you know," Ellen Aguiar told assembled media, defending herself outside the courtroom. "I know that he went out on his boat and the boat came back and he didn't. The attacks on my character and on my son's are devastating at this time."
Scherer said recent events have been tough on Jamie Aguiar, who reportedly married her husband before he made his fortune.
"She's got four kids and herself, and she's alone, and she's got a mess."
Via Broward Palm Beach New Times, read the lawsuit filed against Guma Aguiar: