Pacifica cops say yacht theft suspect claimed he inherited boat 

A Wyoming man accused of swiping a yacht in Sausalito in March for a joy ride that ended on a Pacifica beach told police he had inherited the boat from his deceased father, investigators testified in court Thursday.

Leslie Gardner, 62, was arrested March 4 at Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica after it was discovered that the 82-foot sailboat Darling — which is worth as much as $4 million — had run aground at the beach.

Later that morning, the owner of the Darling, Santa Rosa resident John Furth, called Sausalito police after seeing coverage about the beached vessel on the morning news. Police verified that Furth owned the boat, which had been custom-built in the U.K. and was insured for $4.2 million.

There was an estimated $900,000 in damage to the yacht, which police said Gardner had taken from its slip in the Sausalito Yacht Harbor, accompanied by a couple he had met the day before in Santa Cruz.

The couple, Aptos residents Dario Mora, 54, and Lisa Modawell, 56, were taken into custody along with Gardner after emergency crews removed the trio from the stranded boat. Mora and Modawell were arrested on suspicion of grand theft and conspiracy but the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office declined to charge them.

Pacifica police Sgt. Chris Clements and Detective Scott Avilla both testified Thursday that Gardner told them in interviews that he had inherited the boat from his father, who had died in 2006. They also testified that Mora and Modawell were under the impression that Gardner had inherited the boat.

Clements said Gardner had recently lived in a motor home in the Santa Cruz area and met the couple through a mutual friend.

Judge Donald Ayoob ordered Gardner held for trial. He is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 7.

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