Martin County Sheriff William Snyder says his detectives may have unearthed the beginning stages of a chop shop operation for boats in Hobe Sound.
Detectives arrested 40-year-old Timothy Datillio on Friday for grand theft after finding 2 stolen boats on his property and a stolen boat motor. One of the boats was buried.
Snyder says Datillio would steal the boats, strip them for their parts, and bury the shell.
The sheriff's office used an excavator to dig up a $70,000 boat.
Snyder says all of this stemmed from a basic traffic stop.
Datillio was pulled over when Snyder says he was hauling a stolen boat and a tail light for the trailer was out.
The boat had not yet been reported stolen.
The next day when the boat was reported stolen, Snyder says a dispatcher recognized the boat tag from the prior traffic stop, leading deputies to arrest Datillio at his home.
Once on his property, that's where detectives say they found the boat, already stripped of its parts,and saw a mound of dirt where they determined a boat was buried.
"It's not unusual for us to have a few boats stolen a year. What is unusual for us to track it down and find that boat has been stripped and then buried to obviously prevent law enforcement from finding it," Snyder said.
Investigators say they are not sure if he acted alone. Snyder says Datillio was likely using the stolen parts to build his own boat and also selling parts for money.
Snyder says he will be going to communities with docks to educate people on how to protect their property.