Ahead of impacts from Elsa, crooks decided to make off with some pricy equipment from private boats at a marina in Southwest Florida.
Collier County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a recent grand theft at Viage Marina on Bayshore in East Naples, where the owner reported an estimated $50,000 in GPS equipment stolen from 25 private boats.
According to the report, between Monday night and Tuesday morning, unknown thieves are accused of cutting two separate holes into fencing of the marina – an estimated $2,000 in damages – and stole the equipment off the boats.
The marina owner believes Garmin GPS devices were targeted because, when employees checked on the 55 total boats stored, only the 25 with Garmin brand devices had been vandalized with the devices stolen.
“That’s a lot, you know, 25 boats,” Jeffery Martinez said.
Martinez stores his boat at the marina, and his was among those vandalized ahead of the storm.
“There’s a lot of value in these boats, you know, boating is extremely expensive, and equipment is extremely expensive,” Martinez said. “Mine were [$3,000 to $4,000] each one of them, and I lost three … They also cracked my consoles. They took a crowbar to the finishing of the consoles.”
Deputies say they identified 18 of the 25 boat owners. Local boaters we spoke to said boat thefts happen all the time.
“It happens to my boat,” George Buonocore said. “I’ve had stuff stolen on my boat a lot.”
“It seems like there is a trend with these types of robberies,” Martinez said. “This isn’t the first one. It’s happening around the state.”
Boat owners are helping each other find the culprits.
“I would be looking Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, any place, pawnshops,” Buoncore said. “If you’re going to steal some boat stuff, the only way to get rid of it is to sell it to a store that will resell. It’s probably where they are all going.”
Some boat owners, including Martinez, are now offering a reward of $1,000 for anyone who might have more information.
While deputies investigate surveillance video, the owner of the marina told us they called other marinas to warn them.
“These guys will get caught,” Martinez said. “It is just a matter of time.”