March 5, 2013

Stolen yacht runs aground in Calif.; 3 arrested

The Associated Press

PACIFICA, Calif. — Crews removed an 82-foot yacht from a Northern California beach early Tuesday after authorities say three people stole it, stocked it with pizza and beer, then drove it a little more than 20 miles before running it aground.

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Rescuers attempt to grab a woman off the back of the 82-foot-long sailboat, the Darling, stuck in the surf off Pacifica, Calif., on Monday.

AP

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One of three people rescued from a stolen yacht is arrested by police in Pacifica, Calif. The boat was stolen from Sausalito, Calif.

AP

The luxury vessel "Darlin" was pulled from the sand at Pacifica State Beach, where it was stuck for nearly a day.

Pacifica police arrested Leslie Gardner, 63, Dario Mira, 54, and Lisa Modawell, 56, on suspicion of grand theft and conspiracy. Each of the three was being held on more than $1 million bail.

The strange tale began early Monday when beachgoers phoned police to report the sailboat in trouble.

The yacht was trapped in shallow water at low tide and unable to get back out to sea. A few wetsuit-clad surfers had paddled out in the frigid water near the grounded vessel as its hull was battered by 4- to 5-foot waves.

After television news reports of the grounding aired, the boat's owner called police to report it stolen from Sausalito, about 20 miles to the north, police said.

Authorities made brief contact with the three people on board, but the people at first refused to disembark.

Once officers were alerted that it was a stolen vessel, police surrounded it with guns drawn. After a few hours, the trio agreed to be taken off of the yacht, jumping onto personal watercraft and being quickly ferried to shore.

Pacifica police Capt. Dan Steidle said there was some indication the trio was planning to take the vessel to Pillar Point Harbor, about 10 miles south of where they ended up.

"They have been less than cooperative with our investigative efforts," Steidle said.

Gardner, Mira and Modawell were being held at the San Mateo County jail and were scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, a high tide moved in and provided enough water for crews to dislodge the yacht from the a sandbar where it had gotten stuck. The boat had a damaged rudder and keel, and was taken to a repair yard in Richmond.

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