The Stolen Boat I Didn’t Want Story
A true story
Written 3/2011 Re Written 05/02/2016 unedited
In 1976, I was running a small precious metals refining company. I was doing it part time in the evenings and on the weekends. I had called the company NEARCO Refining and when I started the company the main business was to processing scrap platinum tip aircraft sparkplugs. But, little by little I had started expanding the business by buying and refining some jewelers scrap, well as gold and silver metal from industrial sources.
The main office of NEARCO was a nice desk I had set up in the living room of our house where we were living in Hialeah Florida.
I was doing the actual processing and refining of the metals in a small building I had built in the town of Hialeah Gardens. It was located just off the Palmetto expressway at the 103 street exit. I didn’t like to have any of my suppliers come to the building because I didn’t want anyone to actually see what and how we were doing the business. That was because I didn’t have any type of security system in place, and dealing in precious metals can be a risky business.
In 1976, the market for platinum metal was very low, so I was starting to experiment more with refining the other types of precious metals, like photographic x ray film, and processing the silver recovered from photograph developing laboratories as well as jewelers scrap.
I was also doing business with a friend that had a booth at the Miami Jewelry Exchange in down town Miami. And because I was the only one doing any small lot precious metal refining at the time, it wasn’t long before I started meeting all kinds of strange people. My friend at the Jewelry Exchange was only trying to help me get my business rolling, so he had told lots of people that he had someone that was buying small lots of precious metals for cash. So because of that, my friend at the Exchange introduced me to several small time jewelry scrap dealers, and I started buying material from them. It sure didn’t take long before word spread from dealer to dealer that I was refining small lots of metals, and I was paying cash. That’s when strange people started to come out of the woodwork and were contacting me.
It was easy to see that some of the people that came to see me appeared to be a little on the shady side, so I started to get concerned about my safety, as well as the safety of my good friend Miguel Marquez, who worked for me in the evenings. Many evenings we would be working alone in the building in Hialeah Gardens, and anyone could have walked in and held us up.
So it became a major concern to me, and if I had to meet someone, I often asked them to come to by my home with their metals. As bad as it was, I did it that way rather than to have them come to the building and see how vulnerable we were.
One of the people that came over to my house was a fellow who was about 45 years old, and he had a son who appeared to be about 20 years old. He stopped by my house several times bringing me some platinum metal scrap, and sometimes small amounts of gold.
After several months, he had come by so often that it was inevitable that we became very friendly, and we talked about a variety of subjects. He told me that he was a bachelor living with his son in a one family home in Miramar Florida. He said he had always wanted to do what I was doing, and that he and his son had emptied out their swimming pool and set up a small stove to heat chemicals up. They did it in the bottom where the deep end of the pool was. He said they were trying to learn how to refine some of the metals like I was doing. He said that by doing it in the empty pool, it kept the neighbors from seeing what they were doing. But he said the smell of the acids they were using was stinking up their whole neighborhood, so they gave up on the idea.
One evening they stopped by my house and brought me a small quantity of scrap gold and the father said he wanted to show me something. He placed on my desk a small ingot of what looked like pure gold. It weighed about 1/4 lb. I looked at it and asked him how much he wanted for it. He smiled and said he couldn’t sell it to me because I was his friend and the gold ingot was a fake. I held it in my hand, and it looked pretty good to me and it had the right heft to be real gold. He said he and his son were having the ingots made out of a mixture of metals called jewelers alloy. Then they had a company that was electroplating them with 24 K pure gold. The object was that they were going to sell them to investors, who would put them away in safety deposit boxes and they would never discover that they were fake gold until many years later when some family member tried to sell them.
He wanted to know if I thought it was a good Idea and if I wanted to do it with them. I had to stop and think for a minute. It was obvious that this guy, who was now my friend was a con man and asking me to get involved in an illegal scam with him. The worse part was that it was easy to see how they could do this and get away with it as I was almost fooled myself with their sample.
There was no point in my getting upset, acting indignant or saying anything to them as I should have realized when I first met them that whatever they did for a living was probably illegal, so I told them I would have to think on it, and he said that he would leave me the sample fake gold ingot.
In a few days they were back again, this time they had some normal jeweler’s scrap, the type of material that they usually brought me. That’s when I asked them what else they did for a living. The father looked at me and said as straight forward as possible, our real everyday business is insurance fraud. I told him that I had never heard that from anyone before, so he went on to explain it to me.
He said that a lot of people wanted their cars or other property to disappear so that they could collect the insurance money. I had heard of Insurance fraud, but I never knew it was a regular business that anyone did, nor had I ever met anyone who admitted that they were in the business. So I asked them how the heck they did it. I wondered how they made the cars disappear, they said that it was easy as they drove them into canals all around Miami. They said that they had had put so many cars in some canals, that some couldn’t be used anymore. They said some canals were now stacked 5 deep with cars they had stolen and sunk on top of each other. They said that they had to always look to find new canals to sink the cars in.
I was flabbergasted to hear their story, I always knew that stolen cars sometimes ended up in the canals, and here I was with the very people that put them there. It was then that they asked me if I ever wanted a late model car to let them know, as they had several every week to dispose of. I couldn’t believe that I was hearing this. I told them that I didn’t need any cars, but jokingly I said that if they ever ran into a good fishing boat cheap, they should let me know.
It was about two weeks later, long after I had all but forgotten about the conversation that I had with these two guys. I came home about 5 PM and there, parked in my carport was an 18 foot boat on a trailer. I got out of my car and walked up to it, wondering what this boat was doing in my car port. It was a fiberglass bow-rider style boat on a trailer, and it had a 200 horse power Chrysler outboard engine on it, and several fishing rods.
My wife said that she had heard some noises in the carport earlier in the day, but hadn’t noticed anyone putting a boat there, and that’s when it dawned on me that my friends, the insurance fraud guys, had probably brought me a stolen boat.
I started to think of what would happen if the police found the boat at my house. I knew that I certainly couldn’t ever use the boat, as it probably had already been reported stolen, and I was sure the police were already looking for it. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I became.
That night I could hardly sleep, I tossed and turned, worrying about the possibility of the police finding the boat in my carport. So the next morning, I got my friend on the phone and asked him if he had left the boat, and he said yes. According to him it was part of a friendly divorce and the owner wanted it to disappear, so they could collect the insurance money.
I told them that I was very concerned about having a stolen boat in my carport, and I wanted them to remove it as fast as possible. He saw I was very mad, but he was very calm and told me not to worry he would take care of everything. The next day, when I came home, the boat and trailer were gone. But there were 3 fishing rods they left for me leaning against my house, and from that day on, I never heard from them again. I never tried to contact them as I now knew for sure that they were not only con men but car and boat thieves as well, and I certainly didn’t want to anyone to ever associate me with them, so I was quite happy not to ever to see them again. That was until 20 years later in 1995.
In 1995 I had bought a building located on 47 Street and 36 Avenue in Miami. The building had been owned by an old friend named Arthur, Arthur had moved out of the building and into a much larger warehouse. One day, when I went to Art’s new building for a talk with him, but his secretary told me that he was in a meeting with his new accountant, so I sat down and waited in his outer office. After a few minutes, Art walked out of his office, his new accountant was right behind him, and boy was I surprised, it was the same con man that was involved with the insurance fraud and who had left me with the fake gold ingot. He was just as surprised to see me, as I was to see him. I tried not to show any sign of recognition and he did the same.