Drunk, high, armed Sarasota boat captain kept passengers hostage in gulf, police say

Sarasota charter captain Mark Bailey, 36, has been arrested after authorities say he got drunk and high and threatened to shoot passengers. [Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office]
Sarasota charter captain Mark Bailey, 36, has been arrested after authorities say he got drunk and high and threatened to shoot passengers. [Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office]
Published Jun. 5, 2019

A 12-hour fishing charter out of Sarasota turned into an 18-hour nightmare this past weekend when police said five men and a boy were held captive in the Gulf of Mexico by the vessel's armed, drunk and drug-using captain.

Capt. Mark Bailey drank rum from the bottle, used cocaine and fired his 9mm pistol into the air while keeping them trapped dozens of miles out in the gulf on Saturday, the passengers told police.

He refused to bring them back to shore and threatened to shoot them and leave their bodies out there, police said.

When they finally returned early Sunday, Sarasota police were waiting to arrest the 36-year-old captain.

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It all started when the group booked Bailey's boat, the 47-foot Double Marker. Carlo Lopeparo, 35, of Bradenton, wanted to take his brother, nephew and some friends out to fish in the Gulf. They disembarked from the docks near Marina Jack at about 7 a.m. Saturday. They were due back at 7 p.m.

They reached their limit of red snapper at about 1:45 p.m. Then the trip turned tense. The men gave their account of what happened in written witness statements to police.

"Captain started off fine," passenger Christopher Giuffre, 29, said in a witness statement. "(A) couple hours in (he) started getting an aggressive attitude."

They were about 60 miles out when Lopeparo asked his 15-year-old nephew to get him one of the beers Bailey kept in a bucket, along with some rum. Bailey told the boy to put the beer back. The teen thought the captain was joking and took the beer to his uncle.

Bailey then pushed the boy from behind and ripped a chain off his neck, the police report said. Lopeparo got into a shouting match with Bailey, but retreated to cool off. Bailey insisted on following him, witnesses said. The men tried to keep the captain back. Giuffre's 53-year-old father, also named Christopher Giuffre, described what happened.

"He tried to push past my son, who held his ground," the elder Giuffre said. "They exchanged words with the captain insisting it was his vessel and he could do what he wants."

Things grew worse from there. Bailey started drinking heavily, the passengers said, imbibing Bud Light, Michelob and Captain Morgan Rum. They said he also smoked marijuana and snorted cocaine.

Then, 20 minutes later, Bailey started yelling at the younger Giuffre again.

"He said, 'don't come at me on my own boat. You think you're a tough guy?'" Giuffre told police.

The police report said the captain threatened his passengers: "I have a 9mm and I could pop all you motherf--ker."

He also said he'd dump their bodies in the water.

Minutes later, Bailey fired multiple gunshots into the air, witnesses told police.

The men said they retreated into the cabin. It was about 3 p.m. now, with four hours left in the trip. But Bailey instead took his boat further out. They asked the first mate if they could return to shore, but Bailey refused.

"We were definitely all in fear for our lives," Lopeparo said.

The men said they continued asking Bailey to return to shore. The captain appeared to become more and more impaired, they said. They tracked the boat's movements using GPS, and realized Bailey was going around in circles from 6 p.m. until about 1 a.m. Sunday. They also managed to call for help and relay their situation.

Bailey told them he could keep them out there for as long as he wanted, witnesses said.

The boat docked at about 1 a.m. Sarasota police officers and Coast guardsmen were waiting on shore. The two agencies split up the investigation: Sarasota police will investigate illegal activity that takes place in their presence, while the Coast Guard will investigate the allegations made about the captain in the Gulf of Mexico.

Police decided that Bailey appeared to be impaired and arrested him. The captain would go on to kick the door of a police cruiser while handcuffed inside it, refuse to perform field-sobriety exercises, refuse to take a Breathalyzer test, agree to take one, then refuse again when he got to the Sarasota County jail, police said.

He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of boating under the influence and resisting an officer without violence. He was freed later Sunday after posting $620 bail. Coast Guard spokesman Barry Bena said he could not comment on his agency's investigation into the incident.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at Follow @danuscripts.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at Follow @danuscripts.