By Jay Weaver
From Miami Herald
A stolen outboard motor–it is the bane for 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.
The indictment filed at Miami Federal Court does not indicate whether outboard engines were taken from boats that had been stripped down and kept in homes or marinas. However, the staggering number of them is remarkable in an area where boating is very popular.
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. Authorities say they are a high-demand item on the Florida black market.
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. All of them are from Miami.
Osmania Valdivia, of Lehigh Acres is still at large. She is charged with paying cash to export the outboard engines Valdivia, and other thieves, delivered to the Doral freight line.
Renier Diaz De la Portilla (
Nadia Ledesma) said that Ledesmas own the family-owned shipping company for many years, and it is their main source of income. He said, “They did not do anything wrong.”
Carlos Ledesma’s lawyer Rick Yabor stated that he and Nadia “are keeping their innocence and reviewing 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.
According to the indictment, the Ledesmas along with their accomplices also made false export and bills of sales labels and submitted that information to the U.S. government. Prosecutors will have to prove that the Ledesmas were exporting outboard engines they had stolen from co-conspirators.
The investigation into the boat engine theft involved Homeland Security Investigations, the Coast Guard, and was prosecuted in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Florida is the state with most boat 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. Yamahas accounted for half of the engine thefts.
The Miami region is the No. The country’s No. 1 location for theft boats is Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
“Unfortunately with all the waterways in Miami-Dade County it’s a very target-rich area,” Miguel Espinosa, Miami-Dade police officer, told CNBC. It is easy to steal vessels, sad to add. Engines, particularly 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. To haul several outboard engines including those of Mercury and Yamaha, the thieves used a forklift. A white Isuzu flatbed truck with a Isuzu logo was also reported as stolen by Coating Application Technologies. The truck was suspected to have been transporting the Yellowfin outboard engines.