Three suspected boat thieves, manacled and shackled, arrived at the Fort Myers Beach U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday, just a few miles from where a 20-hour, high-speed boat chase began Thursday morning.
The chase, which at times resembled a James Bond movie, ended about 65 miles west of Cuba and 125 east of Cancun, Mexico on Christmas Eve when the three suspects gave up, law enforcement officials said.
The search spanned more than 345 miles and used three Coast Guard aircraft, a small-boat crew from Station Fort Myers Beach and the Coast Guard Cutter William Trump.
Local law enforcement and Coast Guard officials talked about the movie-like chase and capture Sunday at the Fort Myers Beach U.S. Coast Guard station.
The press conference, led by Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott and Commander Randy Brown, deputy commander of Sector St. Petersburg and acting U.S. Coast Guard section commander, coincided with the arrival of the stolen boat, towed to the station by a Coast Guard cutter with suspects aboard.
One suspect, David Llanes Vasquez, 33, of Miami, favoring an injured leg, was taken to a local hospital, a sheriff's spokesman said.
Vasquez and Vidal Farfan-Ramirez, 23, of Mexico, and Raul De La Vega Sauri, 25, of Homestead, were arrested on multiple charges. Vasquez faces 19 charges including burglary, assault, larceny, fleeing police, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless pollution. Farfan-Ramirez and Sauri face larceny and burglary charges with hearings slated Jan. 25.
A report from the sheriff's office said the boat was owned by Jack Thomas, 43, of Old Pelican Way on Fort Myers Beach.
Thomas told The News-Press on Sunday that he was on the scene of the theft shortly after it happened.
"I felt pretty confident they would recover the boat," he said, especially after the Coast Guard was able to track the stolen craft.
Thomas said this is the first time something like this has happened to him.
"You're mad," he said about how he felt. "But it has happened to so many others."
The boat was taken after an electrical box cover and wires at the boat lift were tampered with.
The Fort Myers Beach resident said that the trio brought in their own power supply and were able to circumvent security measures he had put in place.
"I have some ideas," he said about improving that security."I think it is just one of those things," Thomas continued. "It is the world we live in. You take all the measures you can and be happy we have guys like the Lee County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Coast Guard."
"It was like something out of a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie," Scott said, referring to the suspects' unsuccessful attempt to ram a sheriff's office marine unit boat when it tried to stop the theft and the high-speed chase that ensued.
Scott said the sheriff's office's water and air units were on patrol during the holiday looking for crimes involving high-value boats.