Boat Battle Over

WSVN — Home security cameras showed state agents inspecting a family's boat in their back yard.

When the officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission left, they took the boat with them calling it contraband.

At issue is the boat's identification numbers which look like they may have been altered.

Rachael Hernandez: "I said wait a minute, this is a 21-year-old boat. They're not going to look perfect."

Although the numbers on the hull match the family's records, they don't look sharp like factory numbers should.

Jorge Pino: "We know that the number was altered, we don't know that the number has changed."

It was enough for FWC to think the boat might be stolen.

And with Miami-Dade leading the nation in the number of stolen boats, it's a crime taken seriously by law enforcement.

However, there's a back story here that begins with the sale of the boat to a FWC recruit who is now an officer.

Rachael Hernandez: "He said the boat is perfect. I love it. I want to buy it now."

But after writing a check for $9,500 he stopped payment.

Rachael Hernandez: "I get a very strange call from him saying, 'Listen, I'm going to keep your boat. I'm not going to pay for it. I have the power to do that. I'm a police officer and I just don't give'. You know he said a bad word."

But FWC says the young officer did the right thing by reporting the boat after he had doubts about the authenticity of the identification numbers.

Jorge Pino: "Internal Affairs looked into the matter and decided the matter was purely civil between the owners of the vessel and the officer."

But for six weeks the owners didn't know if they even owned the boat anymore.

It sat in an impound yard in North Miami-Dade.

Johnny Walker: "I didn't see a number."

During that time, someone from the boat's manufacturer tried to find the hidden hull numbers boats should have.

But a search of records later revealed an old warranty that matched the identification numbers.

The family was so concerned they were going to lose the boat, they hired an attorney.

Mario Quintero Jr.: "I don't think it's a totally honest mistake. I think it stems from the original officer putting a stop payment on the check."

And they are considering legal action against that officer.

Rachael Hernandez: "I think it's just a matter of justice and his malicious intent from the beginning."

In the meantime, the family is happy to have the boat back and appreciates the fact an FWC officer did apologize for any inconvenience.

Boat Battle Over

A boat battle that pitted a Miami-Dade family against the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission is over tonight and investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.

WSVN — Home security cameras showed state agents inspecting a family's boat in their back yard.

When the officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission left, they took the boat with them calling it contraband.

At issue is the boat's identification numbers which look like they may have been altered.

Rachael Hernandez: "I said wait a minute, this is a 21-year-old boat. They're not going to look perfect."

Although the numbers on the hull match the family's records, they don't look sharp like factory numbers should.

Jorge Pino: "We know that the number was altered, we don't know that the number has changed."

It was enough for FWC to think the boat might be stolen.

And with Miami-Dade leading the nation in the number of stolen boats, it's a crime taken seriously by law enforcement.

However, there's a back story here that begins with the sale of the boat to a FWC recruit who is now an officer.

Rachael Hernandez: "He said the boat is perfect. I love it. I want to buy it now."

But after writing a check for $9,500 he stopped payment.

Rachael Hernandez: "I get a very strange call from him saying, 'Listen, I'm going to keep your boat. I'm not going to pay for it. I have the power to do that. I'm a police officer and I just don't give'. You know he said a bad word."

But FWC says the young officer did the right thing by reporting the boat after he had doubts about the authenticity of the identification numbers.

Jorge Pino: "Internal Affairs looked into the matter and decided the matter was purely civil between the owners of the vessel and the officer."

But for six weeks the owners didn't know if they even owned the boat anymore.

It sat in an impound yard in North Miami-Dade.

Johnny Walker: "I didn't see a number."

During that time, someone from the boat's manufacturer tried to find the hidden hull numbers boats should have.

But a search of records later revealed an old warranty that matched the identification numbers.

The family was so concerned they were going to lose the boat, they hired an attorney.

Mario Quintero Jr.: "I don't think it's a totally honest mistake. I think it stems from the original officer putting a stop payment on the check."

And they are considering legal action against that officer.

Rachael Hernandez: "I think it's just a matter of justice and his malicious intent from the beginning."

In the meantime, the family is happy to have the boat back and appreciates the fact an FWC officer did apologize for any inconvenience.

IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE

Broward: 954-921-CLUE

E-mail: clue@wsvn.com

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