MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Two thieves wrongly assumed everyone at a home in Miami-Dade County's Coral Terrace neighborhood was asleep, police said. It was about 2:30 a.m., and they didn't know Gustavo Diaz had left his home to pick up food at McDonald's.
Diaz told police officers he returned to his home, west of Coral Gables, to find a Ford F-250 was parked next to his 27-foot Triton Industries boat. When he pulled up to his front yard, he said the thieves jumped into the pickup truck.
Diaz decided to chase them. The men jumped out of the truck. Diaz said one of the men shot at him with a gun, so he got his gun and shot back. Officers joined in the search and found Alejandro Saez-Garrido hiding under a car.
Saez-Garrido, 36, "was unable to provide an explanation for why he was hiding under the vehicle for up to two hours and had made no attempts to notify police," Miami-Dade Detective Kaitlyn Grijalva wrote in a statement in support of an arrest warrant.
Officers arrested Saez-Garrido, of Little Havana, for loitering and prowling in the morning on March 30. Detectives said William Baez-Cartalla posted Saez-Garrido's bond in that case. On Tuesday, prosecutors announced that both men are part of a group that was profiting from stolen property.
"Thieves will steal motor boats that are parked on trailers on residential properties and other locations," Grijalva wrote. "The stolen boats are then stripped of valuable components such as outboard engines and console GPS devices and then left abandoned."
Detectives believe Baez-Cartalla, a 48-year-old convicted felon, was the leader of the group. His criminal record includes grand theft, dealing in stolen property and operating a chop shop, which is a business that includes disassembling stolen vehicles to sell the parts.
Baez-Cartalla and his 22-year-old son, William Baez-Valdes, organized a crew, police said. First, the thieves stole Ford pickup trucks by tampering with the ignition, detectives said. They used the trucks to steal the boats, and they paid drivers in cash, police said.
"In the event that the [driver] is arrested by police, [Baez-Cartalla] has been known to post their monetary bond, perhaps in an effort to ensure that they will not speak to law enforcement regarding his participation," Grijalva wrote.
Baez-Cartalla, of Olympia Heights, used a blowtorch to break the locks on gates and boats before hooking them up to the stolen pickup trucks, police said. He is also accused of stripping the stolen boats. The crew later abandoned the damaged trucks and boats, police said.
Detectives linked the crew to crimes from August 2018 to May 2019, according to the arrest warrant.
To gather evidence, detectives said they acquired the suspect's cellphone history and used geo-fence, a technology that sets a virtual geographic boundary enabling software to alert detectives of certain movements. They also used a mobile tracking device on Baez-Cartalla's Toyota Corolla.
Broward Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a boat yard in Pompano Beach on May 22. Deputies believe Baez-Cartella, Baez-Valdes and Yerandy Machado, 30, of Allapattah, were there to steal a boat about 12:40 a.m. There was a foot pursuit and the men were arrested.
Officers arrested Christian Martinez-Amor, 22, of Tamiami; and Luis Sanchez-Rodriguez, 21, of Hialeah, on Tuesday. They were both at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. Detectives are still searching for Saez-Garrido and Roberto Torres, 27.
Martinez-Amor told a detective he was paid $600 to drive a truck with a trailer and a boat attached to it, police said.
Detectives searched Baez-Cartalla's home and reported finding $1,357 in cash and about $7,712 in checks and digital American Express cards. Inside his car, they reported finding a ledger "with what appeared to be the addresses of where trucks were located."
Detectives and prosecutors are referring to the cases as Operation Knot Yours. The seven men face racketeering and/or conspiring to racketeer charges.
Baez-Cartalla is facing one count of racketeering, conspiring to racketeer, armed grand theft in the second degree, aggravated assault with a firearm, armed grand theft of a vehicle and unlawful use of a communications device.
Baez-Cartalla is also facing two counts of armed burglary and three counts of burglary of a dwelling, burglary of a conveyance, grand theft of a vehicle and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He is also facing five counts of grand theft in the second degree.
Machado is facing one count of racketeering, conspiring to racketeer, grand theft in the second degree and grand theft of a vehicle. He is also facing three counts of burglary of a dwelling.
Martinez-Amor is facing one count of conspiring to racketeer, burglary of a dwelling, grand theft in the second degree, burglary of a conveyance and unlawful use of a communications device.
Baez-Valdes is facing one count of racketeering, conspiring to racketeer, grand theft in the second degree and unlawful use of a communications device.
Sanchez is facing one count of racketeering, conspiring to racketeer, grand theft in the second degree and unlawful use of a communications device.
Saez-Garrido is facing one count of conspiring to racketeer and grand theft in the second degree. Torres is facing one count of conspiring to racketeer.