Miami couple sentenced to prison for exporting stolen outboard engines to Mexico

A Miami couple convicted of conspiring to export about 600 stolen outboard engines worth millions of dollars to Mexico will surrender to prison on staggered dates, according to a federal judge’s sentencings this week.

Carlos Orlando Ledesma, 57, a warehouse manager of the Doral-based shipping company Netcycle Trading Corp., will head to prison in July after being sentenced to three years by a federal judge in Miami on Tuesday. His wife, Nadia Esperanza Ledesma, 46, president of Netcycle Trading, is scheduled to start her 1-1/2 prison term in May 2025.

The Ledesmas, who admitted in plea agreements that they illegally exported the outboard engines, were also ordered to pay back $420,668 to any identifiable victims of the theft by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola.

Earlier this month, two other defendants who also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy were sentenced to five years each. They are Roberto Marrero-Cisneros, 66, of Miami, who acknowledged sticking false serial numbers on the engines but did not work for the couple’s freight-forwarding business; and Osmani Valdivia Perez, 56, of Lehigh Acres, who admitted paying cash for the outboard engines, the phony serial numbers and the illegal exports.

The four defendants’ plea agreements, which involved cooperation with authorities, were signed by the defendants and their lawyers: Rick Yabor, Renier Diaz de la Portilla, Peter Heller and Omar Lopez.

The boat engines were stolen in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state, and then shipped illegally through the Miami-area freight forwarder to Mexico between 2015 and 2018, according to plea agreements. Prosecutors estimated the scheme resulted in a loss of between $9.5 million and $25 million.

Many of the stolen engines were illegally exported to Tomas Vale Valdivia, who was based in Mexico and financed the illicit fencing and shipping scheme, according to prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In a separate case, he was sentenced in early 2020 to nearly five years in prison for smuggling migrants into the United States. He is the nephew of Osmani Valdivia Perez and is not charged in the Miami indictment.

The indictment — built upon allegedly falsified records along with video surveillance footage — says that Nadia and Carlos Ledesma received at least 20 stolen outboard engines from Osmani Valdivia and others and illegally shipped them to Mexico. But prosecutors highlighted in a news release that the Ledesmas illegally exported about 600 stolen outboard engines to Mexico during that period.

“Dozens of individuals delivered the stolen engines” to the Ledesmas’ freight-forwarding company, according to the news release. “The engines had visible damage from the thefts, and cables and lines had been cut rather than properly detached.“

The Ledesmas and their co-conspirators created false bills of sale and submitted bogus export labels to the U.S. government, according to the indictment.

The investigation of the alleged boat engine theft was led by Homeland Security Investigations and the Coast Guard and prosecuted by prosecutors Ana Maria Martinez and Darren Grove with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

It is not clear from the indictment whether the outboard engines were stolen from stripped-down power boats kept at homes, marinas or yacht dealerships. But the sheer number is staggering in a state where outboard engines are a hot commodity on the black market, authorities say.

Florida, which ranks as the top state for boat thieves, does keep track of engine thefts. A CNBC analysis of records compiled by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Division showed a total of 811 engine thefts in 2016 compared with 643 in 2015. About half the stolen engines were Yamahas.

The Miami area is No. 1 in the country for stolen boats, followed by Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tavares.

“Unfortunately, with the amount of waterways that we have in Miami-Dade County, it is a target-rich environment,” Miami-Dade Police Officer Miguel Espinosa told CNBC. “And sad to say, it is very easy [for] someone to try to steal a vessel. Or engines, especially engines.”

In 2020, a Sarasota luxury boat building company, Yellowfin Boats, reported that about $400,000 worth of equipment had been stolen while the store was closed over the Memorial Day weekend. The thieves used a forklift to haul away several outboard engines, including Mercury and Yamaha brands. At the same time, a white Isuzu flatbed truck was reported stolen from neighboring business Coating Application Technologies. Police suspected the truck may have been used to transport the outboard engines from Yellowfin.

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