Wife of missing millionaire Guma Aguiar copes in his absence

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Guma Aguiar steered his motorboat through Port Everglades on a nighttime cruise toward stormy seas six months ago and has not been seen since.

So where does that leave his wife, Jamie?

A beautiful widow at 33?

An abandoned wife?

One constant is the role she has held since 2005: mother to the couple's daughter and three sons, ages 7 years to 15 months.

In a high, soft voice, Jamie Aguiar said Friday that by feeling gratitude, she's able to get through this first holiday season since her husband of seven years vanished June 19, leaving a legal mess of lawsuits that threatens his family and his $100 million fortune.

"It's a very difficult time," Jamie Aguiar said about coping without her husband during what is normally a joyful season for the family, when both Jewish and Christian traditions are observed. "I try and count our blessings every single day and try and think of what I'm grateful for."

Among the courtroom combatants are Guma Aguiar's estate versus his maternal uncle, renowned investor Thomas Kaplan, in a federal case over sales proceeds of an energy company that made Aguiar a wealthy man.

In Broward County and state courts, his mother and siblings are fighting for ownership of real estate in Israel that is in their names and that Jamie's lawyers and a conservator say belongs to Aguiar's estate.

In the Fort Lauderdale neighborhood of Rio Vista Isles, the couple's $5 million British-Colonial mansion, 75 foot Lazzara yacht and the motorboat that washed ashore on a city beach without Guma were put on the market, but all remain unsold.

The fa├žade of the Aguiar home was not decorated for the holidays.

The couple met at Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, when Guma was a born-again Christian. They later converted to Judaism. During their sometimes tumultuous marriage, he was committed to a hospital for mental health struggles, sued her for divorce and later withdrew that petition. Last April, Jamie Aguiar sought a judge's opinion on whether their prenuptial agreement was fraudulent.

Two months later, the man who friends say could also be a loving husband and father, was gone.

Despite her husband's absence, Jamie said she decided to continue the family's holiday rituals.

"We do both Christmas and Hannukah, just as I always have," she said. "We have a Christmas tree and I celebrate with the children and light the menorah, too. It's a really special tradition this time of year."

Such practices "mean a lot to me and the children," she said. "The lighting of the menorah was something we've always done, every Friday, for Shabbat. Guma would light the menorah before prayers."

She said the suffering of others has kept her family's situation in perspective.

"There are a lot of things to be thankful for, especially in light of the current situation," She said. "So many families were affected by the [Newtown, CT] Sandy Hook [elementary school] shootings."

Aguiar calls her kids "my four wonderful blessings" and said she is "thankful that they have their health. We have food on the table. I'm just keep reminding myself of that."

Sometimes, she said, "I have to do that multiple times each day, when things aren't looking so good. That's how I get through the day."

She will need that fortitude, as two lawsuits may head to trial in March.

Legal billings submitted to the estate are about $1 million a month, according to some of the attorneys participating in the litigation.

High-powered lawyers in the fray already include William Scherer for Jamie; court appointed conservator Thomas Panza on behalf of the estate; Fort Lauderdale Mayor and court appointed Conservator ad Litem Jack Seiler, who acts on behalf of Guma, and Kendall Coffey for Guma and Seiler. Former state senator George LeMieux is representing Aguiar's sister, Angelika Aguiar-Drew, in the tussle over the Israeli real estate.

One of the attorneys called the litigation "A full employment act for lawyers."


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