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Boat thief lands in hot water again

Just out of prison for boat theft, he says he was asked to repair this one. Not so, says the owner.

By ELENA LESLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published August 14, 2007


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John Darlington of Holiday is accused of taking a boat and trailer worth about $68,000.

TARPON SPRINGS - Less than two weeks after his release from prison, a boat thief snatched a new vessel, according to police.

John Darlington, 45, of Holiday was arrested Saturday on a charge that he stole a boat and trailer worth an estimated $68,000.

He had been released Aug. 1 from the Cross City Correctional Institution, where he had served about two years for violating his probation on a grand theft charge related to stealing a boat, according to Florida Department of Corrections records and a police report.

Contacted Monday after he was released from jail after posting bail, Darlington said the whole thing was a misunderstanding - a claim the boat's owner disputes.

David Gause, owner of Gause Built Custom Boats, reported the fishing boat missing Friday. Surveillance tape from the previous evening showed a green Chevrolet Silverado pulling into Gause's lot. A man emerged from the vehicle, inspected some of the boats, and then backed up his truck to the 23-foot boat, which was in the shop for maintenance.

The intruder then hooked the boat's trailer to the truck's hitch and drove out of the lot, boat and trailer in tow, according to the police report.

Tarpon Springs police Officer Jose Yourgules reviewed the tape and got a description of the truck and the suspect.

The next day, Yourgules spotted a green Chevrolet Silverado parked outside the Bridge Lounge, occupied by a man matching the description of the man on the surveillance tape, according to his report. He approached the driver, who identified himself as Darlington and admitted to taking the boat from Gause's lot.

Darlington told the officer that a man he met in a bar had asked him to pick up the boat and do some repairs. The police report said Darlington repairs boats for Jedco Boat, Motor & Trailer.

Though he initially told authorities he had an invoice for the repairs in his office, Darlington eventually said "he knew the deal was wrong and figured the man wasn't the rightful owner, but he needed the money," the report reads.

Darlington was arrested and charged with grand theft. He led authorities to the boat, which was in a shed behind his house in Holiday. Gause took in the boat and told the owner he would inspect it for damage.

Darlington was booked at the Pinellas County Jail and released Sunday after posting $15,000 bail.

The State Attorney's Office is scheduled to consider what to do with the case next on Aug. 30.

On Monday, Darlington maintained that his arrest arose from a misunderstanding.

"I was contacted to do repairs but picked up the boat without authorization," Darlington said. "The manufacturer had a conniption."

But boat owner Linda Donaldson of Lakeland said no one representing her family ever contacted Darlington.

"I don't even know who he is," she said.

Elena Lesley can be reached at elesley@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

[Last modified August 13, 2007, 21:29:54]


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