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Two Sausalito yacht theft suspects freed; Third to be charged

March 6, 2013 7:44:19 PM PST
Two of the three suspects arrested on a stolen multimillion-dollar yacht are free, even though they were on the yacht when it ran aground in Pacifica. The one remaining suspect is Leslie Alan Gardiner. He came to Santa Cruz, telling friends he had inherited a fortune. Now he's in jail, charged with stealing a $2.7 million yacht.

The two people who were with him have been let go because the district attorney really believes they didn't know they were on a stolen boat.

A tearful reunion just outside the jail as Lisa Modawell and her boyfriend Dario Mira were both released from jail after being arrested Monday morning onboard an 82-foot luxury yacht that had run aground in Pacifica. For four hours police stood onshore, ordering them to surrender.

On Wednesday Modawell explained why they didn't, "Why didn't I wanna get outta the boat?" she asked. "I wanted to, yeah, I just didn't want to get wet, my jacket and everything all wet. I wanted them to bring a little life boat or something to bring us in."

Well they didn't get a little life boat. What they got was pulled off on a jet ski and then arrested; Lisa Modawell, Dario Mira, and the man who they say invited them onboard, 62-year-old Leslie Alan Gardiner of Wyoming.

On Wednesday Gardiner pleaded not guilty to the charges of grand theft, receiving stolen property, and vandalism; charges stemming from the theft and damage to the 82-foot luxury yacht, which was taken Sunday night from its slip in Sausalito.

The boat wound up on the beach in Pacifica, apparently after Gardiner misjudged the surf line. Mira told us it was Gardiner's plan to sail the boat to Santa Cruz.

"He said he was going to pick up a boat, you know a friend of his' boat," Mira said. "And he was gonna take it to Santa Cruz and that's when I said, 'hey can we come too?'"

Mira says Gardiner knew how to handle the boat. He says the police reports that they broke into the yacht aren't true.

Dario: "No no no there was a key, he had a key, he called for the key."
Mark: "He called?"
Dario: "He called somebody for the key."
Mark: "And somebody came and brought him a key?"
Dario: "No no no, he said it was in the top canopy, in the canopy. So another friend of mine started looking and he found the key, popped out."
Mark: "Do you have any idea who he called?"
Dario: "No, I assumed it was the owner."

Prosecutors say Modawell and Mira met Gardiner just a few days before in Santa Cruz. And they believed him when he said he had a lotta dough.

"I was told he had a lot of money, that he'd inherited a lot of money," Mira said. "So, I don't go by looks, really. Cause you can't go by looks."

Gardiner remains in jail. His bail is set at just over a million dollars. He's due back in court for a preliminary hearing on March 18.

The owner of the yacht, John Fruth of Santa Rosa, says he doesn't know doesn't know John Gardiner.

We have been reporting that it's a $2.7 million yacht because that's what the same year, make, and model is selling for. But we found out in court Wednesday that the yacht is insured for $4.2 million.


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