September 21, 2015

Sheriff announces break in marine theft investigation

Suspect Diaz, when he was arrested
in Florida City.
Sheriff Rick Ramsay announced today a major break in the marine theft investigations which have taken place in Monroe County over past months. A Hialeah man and an accomplice from Miami were apprehended Thursday night, caught in the act of stealing marine electronics in the Upper Keys.

“These guys were possible suspects on a  list of suspects our marine task force had compiled based on intelligence information gathered during their investigations,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “We’ve been working non-stop, nights and weekends on these cases putting together information and hoping for something to break and it happened late last week.” Sheriff Ramsay put together a multi-agency task force to investigate these crimes. That task force has been working together tirelessly  to identify possible suspects; to identify the possible ways these suspects have been operating, where they are taking the stolen property and any other angles which might help to stop them from committing these crimes.

Suspect Marquez, from Miami.
The break came on Thursday night when Deputy Christopher Kilmurray spotted a suspicious vehicle. Road patrol had been told to be on the lookout for anything suspicious in the vicinity of marine related businesses in the county. He saw a Ford Escape in the parking lot of the Burton Memorial Church in Tavernier at 11 p.m., backed into a parking spot in the far corner of the lot. The church is across from Unique Marine, a large boat sales and service business. The driver was sitting inside the vehicle, hunched down in the seat as if trying to hide. When Deputy Kilmurray ran his name – 23 year old Yosvany Izquierdo Marquez of Miami – he found the man had a history of arrests in other jurisdictions for burglaries and thefts. Deputy Kilmurray’s sergeant – Jason Madnick – sent Deputy Cody Kerns to make sure the property of Unique Marine was secure. His thinking: the guy sitting in the car in the deserted parking lot might be a lookout for someone committing crimes nearby.

A tool bag, left behind by Diaz and some of the electronics taken
from boats at Unique Marine.
Deputy Kerns jumped the fence at Unique Marine to check the boats stored inside. As he was checking the business, he came face to face with a Hispanic man who later turned to be Roberto Morales Diaz, 38 years old from Hialeah. Diaz was wearing dark clothing, a dark baseball cap and gloves. When the deputy confronted him, Diaz turned and ran. Kerns gave chase, but did not catch him. He did, however, find a large hole cut in a chain link fence at the back of the property. A tool kit was laying on the ground next to the hole in the fence, and a pile of GPS and radar units which had been removed from boats in the lot. A hat like the one Diaz was wearing was also found near the gate to the property. A perimeter was set up around the area and officers searched for Diaz, but did not find him.

Marquez was arrested and charged with loitering and prowling. He was later charged with being a principle to the crime of burglary after he told detectives he had given Diaz a ride to the Keys. He said Diaz offered him $2,400 to drive him to the keys, to “leave him at the church so he can steal boat parts”. Deputy Kerns looked at a photo of Diaz and identified him as the man he confronted, face to face, at Unique Marine. Diaz already had a warrant out for his arrest. He’d been connected with one boat burglary which took place on May 29th at Shelter Bay Marina in Marathon. He’d left DNA in the form of a half empty water bottle on the boat he burglarized.

Previous intelligence gathered by the task force indicated Diaz might be connected with a white Nissan Altima so officers began to look out for the car thinking Diaz might be trying to flee the county in it. Lt. Al Ramirez was on the 18 mile stretch in the early morning hours, after having been at the scene of the Unique Marine burglaries. He spotted the Altima and followed it into Florida City where he asked for the assistance of Florida City Police in stopping it. The vehicle was stopped at the intersection of U.S. One and Palm Drive. Diaz was inside the vehicle. He was arrested with the assistance of Florida City and Homestead Police and charged with the warrant that was outstanding for the burglary at Shelter Bay Marina.
One of the boats with electronics removed by Diaz.

In the meantime, detectives processed the scene at Unique Marine in Tavernier. They found a total of eight boats were burglarized, with electronics taken from all of them. They obtained warrants and on Friday, Diaz was returned to Monroe County where he was further charged with eight counts of burglary, eight counts of theft, possession of burglary tools, criminal mischief and resisting arrest in connection with the crimes committed at Unique Marine.

“As you can see from this case, it was a combination of intelligence gathered by the task force working these cases, and alert deputies who had been told what to look out for that led to these arrests,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “We believe these suspects have been instrumental in a significant number of the electronics thefts that have taken place in the county. We will continue to work on these investigations and hope to bring more charges and make more arrests. In the meantime, we would caution people to continue to be vigilant – don’t leave valuable equipment on your boat. Keep an eye out for suspicious behavior and call us immediately if you see anyone who might be casing your neighborhood or checking out people’s boats.”

The marine theft task force, which has committed over a thousand hours and has been working together on these cases for months, is comprised of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol, Homeland Security, the State Attorney's Office and Customs and Border Protection. Key West Police lent resources to the task force on several occasions.

“We want to thank our law enforcement partners. Everyone committed hours and resources to this effort and worked tirelessly toward the goal of stopping these crimes,” said Sheriff Ramsay. “The citizens of the county should feel good about the fact that they have such professional, committed law enforcement agencies working to keep them safe.”

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