Federal prosecutors accused two men Wednesday of killing the captain and three crew members of a charter fishing boat they allegedly attempted to hijack at sea.

Prosecutors filed criminal complaints against Kirby Logan Archer, 35, and 19-year-old Guillermo Zarabozo, both of whom were rescued from the ocean and are already in custody. They could get the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

The charges stem from the disappearance of the four people after Archer and Zarabozo last month chartered the "Joe Cool" fishing boat, purportedly for a pleasure trip to Bimini, Bahamas.

Attorneys for Archer and Zarabozo did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment. A hearing is scheduled Thursday in federal court for both men.

The men were found floating in the boat's life raft with no sign of the captain and crew. Zarabozo initially claimed that an unknown group of pirates had attacked them at sea and fatally shot the crew one by one.

Their bodies have never been found despite a massive Coast Guard search, but investigators did recover four bullet shell casings, blood and other evidence from the boat.

The boat started out on course for Bimini on Sept. 22 but then turned sharply south and was found abandoned and out of fuel north of Cuba, officials have said. Investigators say the two might have been attempting to reach Cuba and had paid $4,000 in cash to make the trip to Bimini.

Zarabozo is now being held on charges of lying to a federal agent for claiming he had never been aboard the "Joe Cool." Archer is in custody as a fugitive from Arkansas charged with stealing more than $92,000 (euro65,000) from a Wal-Mart where he had been a manager.

The four crew are the boat's captain, Jake Branam, 27; his wife Kelley Branam, 30; his half brother Scott Gamble, 30; and Samuel Kairy, 27. All are from Miami Beach.