Florida Keys

Boat theft suspect with eyes on Cuba stopped in Keys

Stephen Leonard is taken into custody.
Stephen Leonard is taken into custody. Customs and Border Patrol via KeysInfoNet

A New York man was jailed last week after he was accused of stealing a boat from a Keys marina, possibly to head to Cuba.

Stephen Leonard, 40, a truck driver from Roosevelt Island, is charged with felony grand theft and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Police were tipped off to the theft of the 31-foot Yellowfin vessel when the owner drove by the Hurricane Hole Marina and saw his boat, which he keeps there, was missing. He called the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Becky Herrin says the marina manager reviewed video and saw someone take the boat at 5:30 a.m. Thursday. And the boat owner heard from a friend who lives on Stock Island who said he saw the boat idling south in Cow Key Channel at 6:30 a.m.

Herrin said at 3:30 p.m., staff at the Key West Harbor Yacht Club called the Sheriff's Office to report the boat was being fueled up at their marina; they had heard the boat was stolen and recognized it when it came in.

Deputy Spencer Curry arrived just as the stolen boat was leaving. He yelled at the operator, later identified as Leonard, to stop but Leonard sped off.

Staff at the yacht club reported Leonard asked how much gas he would need to get to Cuba.

Detective David Cruz was working the case and went to the area of South Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West, where he saw the boat going south. Dispatchers notified the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the location.

They all showed up, with planes and vessels, and busted Leonard. Others who had been in contact with Leonard were interviewed and said "he'd been acting strangely and had been talking about going to Cuba," Herrin said.