If planning for your honeymoon includes stealing a 40-foot catamaran, love has made you stupid, a discovery now for a Florida Keys couple after a federal judge sentenced them to 2 1/2 years in prison.
Instead of a honeymoon, when the romantic adventure of Aaron Burmeister and Ashley McNeil entered Cuban waters, that earned them six months in a Cuban jail before they were expelled from Cuba by plane back to the U.S. in September 2018.
Burmeister, 46, and McNeil, 32, both pleaded guilty to stealing the boat Nov. 13. After their release from prison, both will be under court supervision for three years. The judge also recommended they both complete a substance abuse program.
The Big Pine pair admitted kayaking out to Newfound Harbor near Big Pine Key to where the vessel was moored on March 30, 2018. They also admitted they knew the sailboat wasn’t abandoned property — after at first saying they thought it was — due to its good condition.
They wanted to sail to the Bahamas yet ended up in Cuba. On April 1, 2018, Cuban authorities informed the U.S. Coast Guard that the vessel had been detained. They were arrested near the resort town of Varadero on Cuba’s northern coast. Both fessed up immediately.
“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.
But their trouble continues as the matter of restitution still is to be decided. A rough estimate of the damage came in at $69,728 for the 2009 boat purchased for $350,000. Much of the damage was from sun exposure and weathering.
Named Kaisosi, the boat was found in part by a network of sailors who keep tabs on stolen vessels and use high-frequency radio and social media to keep in contact.