(New Buffalo, MI) - The search for a Chicago family’s yacht stolen from New Buffalo Harbor ended after a few days with the boat recovered and suspect in custody. The alleged thief could qualify as a stupid criminal because he had no money to feed the gas guzzling machine.
According to New Buffalo Police, the 37-year old man was being held in the Berrien County Jail on a preliminary charge of possession of stolen property. Police did not reveal the name of the suspect, who is from Syracuse, Indiana.
The 60 foot boat named “Land Shark II” was taken from New Buffalo Marina on June 10. Police said the suspect stepped on the vessel while it was being cleaned by a maintenance worker for the owners. The suspect told the employee he was the nephew of the owner and was there to take the boat for a ride. The employee stepped aside and the suspect powered off in the vessel. Police were contacted the next day by the owners after they showed up in New Buffalo and the boat was gone.
According to police, the U.S. Coast Guard and authorities at other marinas in the Great Lakes were notified to be on the lookout for the boat. Two days later, authorities were notified the stolen vessel was seen adrift and possibly grounded in shallow water near the Bridgman and Lake Township border.
The suspect was taken into custody after wading from the boat to the shore, police said.
Police said the boat was towed to a marina in St. Joseph to be inspected for any damage and processed as evidence in the criminal case.
According to police, the alleged thief is also a suspect in other thefts in the area that occurred the same day the boat was taken. Police said he left his wallet at one of the alleged crime scenes. “This also made it difficult for him to buy food or fuel for the boat that he was on for the better part of three days,” said New Buffalo Police Chief Rich Killips.
Bob Stratton, owner of Service 1 Marine, said there have been much smaller boats and personal watercraft taken at the lakefront during his more than 30-years in the business primarily in the New Buffalo and Michigan City areas. However, Stratton said he’s never heard of such a large boat ever being stolen from slips in the area. Stratton said a yacht that size typically has an 800 gallon fuel tank capable of traveling 200 to 300 miles before needing a fill up.
Even if the suspect had plenty of money at his disposal, Stratton said the stolen boat more than likely would have been recognized after pulling into a harbor just about anywhere to get fuel. "There’s nowhere to hide. It was just a matter of time before the suspect got caught,” he said.