Man convicted in 2014 yacht theft heads back to jail after he's found on the same boat again

A man whom the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol inadvertently helped steal a $3-million yacht from its Newport Beach dock in 2014 is behind bars again after he was found on the same vessel this week.

Richard Marco Rodriguez, 35, of Whittier pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor trespassing charge after police found him two days earlier on the 78-foot Stimulus in its docking space in the 200 block of South Bay Front on Balboa Island, according to police and Orange County Superior Court records.

Rodriguez was immediately sentenced Thursday to 21 days in county jail and three years’ informal probation, according to court records.

Rodriguez told police he had the right to be on the vessel. Investigators didn’t immediately see signs of forced entry, but the boat’s captain and owner said Rodriguez did not have permission to be on it, said Newport Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella.

Police arrested Rodriguez on suspicion of grand theft of a boat or vessel, a felony, but prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with that. Instead, prosecutors filed the lesser misdemeanor charge.

This isn’t the first time Rodriguez had the urge to take to the seas.

In 2014, he broke into the same craft and tried to pilot the boat out of Newport Harbor before getting stuck between two docks.

As the boat began drifting toward a sea wall, Rodriguez radioed Harbor Patrol for help. Deputies towed him out of the predicament and escorted him to the mouth of the harbor, authorities said at the time.

The next morning, someone noticed the yacht was missing and called Newport Beach police. Police sent out an alert for the stolen boat and identified Rodriguez as the suspect.

About three hours later, Long Beach police found the yacht, which was seen moving erratically just outside the breakwater of Long Beach Harbor, police said at the time.

When officers approached the vessel, authorities said, Rodriguez started threatening officers and apparently tried to crash into a police boat.

In 2015, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to felony grand theft. A felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon was dropped, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.

Rodriguez was sentenced in March 2015 to five years in Los Angeles County Jail. It is not clear when he was released.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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