State Attorney’s Office announces arrests in boat theft ring and ways to prevent

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Maimi Dade Police director Juan Perez announced arrests of people connected with a boat theft ring on August 20, 2019.

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Maimi Dade Police director Juan Perez announced arrests of people connected with a boat theft ring on August 20, 2019.

A father-son team who police say led a $1 million boat theft ring that has plagued the county for over a year was arrested in what is being called the first major bust of a boat task force involving Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach law enforcement agencies.

“Today we stand here united for one message and one message only for those [who] intend to continue to steal boats and take people’s property,” Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said Tuesday at a press conference with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. “It will no longer be acceptable”

William Baez-Cartalla, 48, and William Baez-Valdes, 22, were arrested Monday on multiple charges, including racketeering, grand theft and burglary. Police allege they led a criminal organization that stole more than $1 million in boats and equipment. Authorities also charged five others in Operation Knot Yours.

knot yours FACE

Trevor Wanless

According to the arrest warrant, the father-son team orchestrated a plan that involved surveillance, recruitment and stolen trucks. Miami-Dade detectives, with the help of their counterparts across South Florida, located the stolen items as well as cracked the code that eventually led to the Baezes’ arrest.

If convicted, they could face up to 30 years in prison.

The first step in their operation was scouting pickup trucks, authorities said.

“They would then steal those targeted trucks and have the truck on standby for planned future boat theft,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.

According to arrest records, the Baezes paid young men to drive the stolen trucks to predetermined locations where police say they would steal boats from unsuspecting owners in the dead of night. While transporting the stolen boats, the young men would be in constant contact with the father and son, who authorities said followed close behind in a separate vehicle.

“Had they been in the stolen trucks with the boat on it, they knew that they would’ve been caught,” Rundle said. “So what they did, they just let the guys that they recruited be stuck in the stolen truck with the stolen boat.”

The drivers would be instructed to take the boats to a final location where they would be stripped for parts that were sold for profit on the black market.

Police said nine boats and five trucks were stolen.

Along with the Baezes, Miami-Dade authorities arrested 29-year-old Yerandy Machado, 22-year-old Christian Martinez-Amor and 21-year-old Luis Sanchez Rodriguez on grand theft and conspiracy to racketeer charges. Two other suspects — Roberto Torres, 27, and Alejandro Saez-Garrido, 35 — are still at large.

Miami-Dade investigators began working with other South Florida law-enforcement agencies to solve this case “a few months ago,” according to Rundle. The agencies are forming a boat task force to combat the growing problem of thefts.

Florida has led the country in boat thefts since 2014. Last year, Broward and Miami-Dade alone accounted for nearly a quarter of the state’s watercraft thefts.

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.

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