FORT MYERS, Fla. - Nine individuals residing in Naples, Fla. and three men residing in Miami were charged in a federal indictment following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), Coast Guard Investigative Service SE Region, Miami, Florida (CGIS), Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and the Collier County Sheriff's Office (CCSO).
Rene Blanco Nunez , 42; Remberto Blanco Martinez, 33; Jacqueline Galiano Anesto, 43; Heriberto Paez Reyes, 34; Mayque Aguilera Pulido, 30; Angel Alvarez Esquijarosa, 35; Francisco Munoz Cabrera, 29; Douglas Gainza Cespedes, 35 and Darinet Molina-Mata, 32, all of Naples and Reinier Pereda Montesino, 26 and Reynaldo Calatallu Garcia, 37, both of Hialeah; and Javier Guevara Fernandez, 36, of Homestead were charged in an indictment in the Middle District of Florida with conspiracy to transport stolen vessels in foreign commerce and nine counts of transporting stolen vessels. If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison on the conspiracy count and 10 years on each of the remaining nine counts, for a total of 95 years in prison.
All defendants except for Paez Reyes and Pereda Montesino made their initial appearance in federal court in Ft. Myers on Monday before Magistrate Judge Sheri Polster Chappell and are scheduled for arraignment on Sept. 29. Paez Reyes and Pereda Montesino remain fugitives.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge in Tampa Susan McCormick said, "Community boat owners should be able to enjoy the Florida waterways without fearing that their worthy possessions are going to be stolen by individuals who are driven by greed and whose mission is to conduct criminal activities at the expense of others. ICE Homeland Security Investigations special agents and our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners dismantled a Naples-based criminal organization and prevented them from conducting additional criminal activities."
The indictment alleges that, between June 2007 and August 2010, the defendants conspired to transport stolen vessels worth a total of at least $1.5 million from Collier, Charlotte, Lee, Manatee, and Pinellas counties, to Mexico. The stolen vessels included a 36' 2005 Yellowfin stolen on June 6, 2007, from Naples; a 34' 2009 Sea Vee stolen from Marco Island; a 34' 2008 Fountain stolen on January 26, 2009, from Tierra Verde in Pinellas County; a 38' 2009 Fountain stolen on February 24, 2009, from Bonita Springs; a 30' 2007 Grady White stolen from Anna Maria Island; a 28' 2005 Grady White stolen on April 19, from Fort Myers Beach; a 33' 2008 Hydrasport stolen on May 4, from St. James City; a 33' 2008 Pursuit stolen from Fort Myers Beach; a 41' 2005 Luhrs Sportfish Convertible stolen from St. Pete Beach; a 42' 2004 Sea Ray Sundancer stolen from Cortez; and a 44' 2007 Sea Ray stolen from Punta Gorda.
The investigation of the theft ring began in 2007 in response to a dramatic increase in thefts of luxury vessels from Southwest Florida. Local, state, and federal agencies formed an investigative task force known as "Island Runners" to target individuals suspected to be part of a Naples-based organization responsible for stealing vessels from waterfront homes in Southwest Florida and transporting those vessels to Mexico. During the course of the investigation, the task force not only gathered information leading to this indictment but also successfully disrupted the intended theft of numerous additional vessels.
U.S. Attorney A. Brian Albritton stated: "The high level of cooperation among federal, state, and local agencies on this major investigation has significantly impacted what was a wide-ranging network of criminals operating from our docks and waterways. I commend all the members of the Island Runners task force in responding so thoroughly to a problem that has plagued numerous Middle District of Florida residents and that had the potential to affect not only our people and property but the reputation of Southwest Florida as a major boating destination."
CGIS Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Sall, SE Region, Miami, stated: "We would like to thank all law enforcement officials involved and are happy to see resolution for so many victims in this case."
FDLE Assistant Special Agent in Charge Francisco Hidalgo stated, "The members of this theft ring were responsible for millions of dollars of boat thefts from Collier to Pinellas County. The establishment of the 'Island Runners' task force and the information sharing among the numerous law enforcement agencies involved contributed significantly to these arrests."
Collier Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk stated, "This multi-agency investigation and operation ultimately resulted in indictments and arrests that are now being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office. I would like to thank our partners in public safety including CGIS, FDLE, ICE, and the U.S. Attorney's Office and our Collier County Sheriff's Office Organized Crime Bureau for curtailing the boat thefts in our area and helping to keep our community safe."
This case was investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Ft. Myers, FDLE, CGIS, and CCSO and assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Sheriff's Offices of Charlotte, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota Counties, and the Police Departments of Cape Coral, Clearwater, Longboat Key, Marco Island, Miami-Dade, Naples, Punta Gorda, and St. Petersburg Beach.
The case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jesus M. Casas.
The Island Runners Investigation is ongoing.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities. For more information, visit: www.ICE.gov. To report suspicious activity, call 1-866-347-2423.