A couple in the Florida Keys yesterday was sentenced to more than two years in prison for stealing a 40-foot catamaran, which they sailed to Cuba on a honeymoon.
According to the Miami Herald, a federal judge gave Aaron Burmeister and Ashley McNeil two-and-a-half years for stealing Kaisosi. Prosecutors had asked for 18 months. The couple had spent six months in a Cuban jail before being sent back to the United States.
“They were detained in part because they had entered Cuba without permission, but the Cuban authorities also negotiated for the defendants to be returned to the United States to face these charges,” wrote Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Jones in a motion to the court.
Burmeister, 46, and McNeil, 32, had pleaded guilty for stealing the boat in November after being returned to the United States, asking the judge for credit for the time spent in the Cuban jail.
The Herald reported that the judge will require a three-year probation period after the couple’s prison time. He also recommended they both complete a substance-abuse program.
The couple had planned to sail to the Bahamas but wound up in Cuba, where they were arrested.
“McNeil stated that after fueling in Cuba they had plans to eventually return to Florida after ‘taking a honeymoon,’ and were hoping to return the vessel to where they found it and avoid any trouble,” according to the criminal complaint.
The judge also will determine how much they owe the sailboat’s owner. A rough estimate of the damage was about $70,000. The Herald reported that Kaisosi was discovered by a network of sailors who track stolen vessels using high-frequency radio and social media to keep in contact.
“If it wasn’t for social media and the boating community in general, who knows what could have happened,” owner Hector Cisneros said.