By Jay Weaver
From Miami Herald
A stolen outboard engine—it’s the bane of boaters.
About 600 high-priced outboard engines were stolen in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state, and then fenced through a Miami-area freight forwarder that illegally exported them to Mexico, according to a new federal indictment.
It is not clear from the indictment, filed in Miami federal court, whether the outboard engines were stolen from stripped-down power boats kept at homes, marinas or yacht dealerships, but the sheer number is staggering in a state where boating is a favorite pastime.
Prosecutors don’t put a price tag on the pilfered outboard engines, but each can cost from $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the brand, make and horsepower. In other words, they’re a hot commodity on the black market in Florida, authorities say.
Three of the suspects in the new Miami case have already surrendered and been granted bonds: Nadia Esperanza Ledesma, 45, president of Doral-based Netcycle Trading Corp.; her husband, Carlos Orlando Ledesma, 56, Netcycle’s warehouse manager; and Roberto Marrero-Cisneros, 65, who is accused of sticking false serial numbers on the engines but did not work for the couple’s freight-forwarding business. They are all from the Miami area.
Still at large is Osmania Valdivia Perez, of Lehigh Acres, who is accused of paying cash for the exportation of the stolen outboard engines that Valdivia and others delivered to the Doral freight company.
Nadia Ledesma’s attorney, Renier Diaz de la Portilla, said Thursday that the Ledesmas have run the small, family shipping business for years and it’s their livelihood. “They did nothing wrong,” he said.
Carlos Ledesma’s lawyer, Rick Yabor, said that he and his wife, Nadia, “are maintaining their innocence and reviewing the evidence.”
Marrero-Cisneros’ lawyer, Peter Heller, declined to comment.
The indictment—built upon allegedly falsified records along with video surveillance footage—claims that Nadia and Carlos Ledesma received at least 20 stolen outboard engines from Valdivia and others and illegally shipped them to Mexico between 2015 and 2018. But prosecutors highlighted in a news release that the Ledesmas illegally exported about 600 stolen outboard engines to Mexico during that period.
The Ledesmas and their co-conspirators also created false bills of sale and export labels and filed that information with the U.S. government, according to the indictment. The challenge for prosecutors will be proving whether the Ledesmas exported outboard engines that they knew had been stolen by co-conspirators.
The investigation of the alleged boat engine theft was led by Homeland Security Investigations and the Coast Guard and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Florida, which ranks as the top state for boat thieves, does keep track of engine thefts. A CNBC analysis of records compiled by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Division showed a total of 811 engine thefts in 2016 compared with 643 in 2015. About half the stolen engines were Yamahas.
The Miami area is No. 1 in the country for stolen boats, followed by Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tavares.
“Unfortunately, with the amount of waterways that we have in Miami-Dade County, it is a target-rich environment,” Miami-Dade Police Officer Miguel Espinosa told CNBC. “And sad to say, it is very easy (for) someone to try to steal a vessel. Or engines, especially engines.”
In 2020, a Sarasota luxury boat building company Yellowfin Boats, reported that about $400,000 worth of equipment had been stolen while the store was closed over the Memorial Day weekend. The thieves used a forklift to haul away several outboard engines, including Mercury and Yamaha brands. At the same time, a white Isuzu flatbed truck was reported stolen from neighboring business Coating Application Technologies. Police suspected the truck may have been used to transport the outboard engines from Yellowfin.
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https://www.theepochtimes.com/feds-bust-stolen-outboard-ring-in-florida-miami-company-accused-of-exporting-engines_4586807.html, The Epoch Times