CLEVELAND — Crews from Cleveland U.S. Coast Guard units hosted Department of Justice assistant U.S. attorneys and interns from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio Friday morning.
The attorneys and interns toured Marine Safety Unit Cleveland, Station Cleveland Harbor, and the Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay to help strengthen the partnership the Coast Guard has with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting federal criminal cases with a Coast Guard interest, such as environmental crimes, drug cases, false-distress-signal cases, and boating under the influence cases.
During the tour, the attorneys, Marine Safety Unit officers, Station Cleveland Harbor petty officers, and a Coast Guard judge advocate discussed the various Coast Guard statutory missions and operations the Coast Guard conducts throughout the Great Lakes, and ways that the Coast Guard can hone best practices when investigating and referring federal crimes to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
One such case that the Coast Guard and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District recently worked together on involved Sandusky, Ohio, native Danik Shiv Kumar, who pleaded guilty to one count of making a false distress call in violation of 14 U.S. Code 88(c).
Kumar, a licensed aircraft pilot, told authorities in March 2012 he saw what he thought was a distress flare coming up from a boat as he flew over Lake Erie near Cleveland. When asked by Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport to take a closer look, Kumar said he did not see a vessel, but reported seeing more flares and a fishing boat with four people aboard wearing life jackets and active strobe lights. The resulting 21-hour search included a 140-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutter, three smaller rescue boats, a rescue helicopter and a Canadian CC130 Hercules airplane.
A federal judge sentenced Kumar to serve three months in prison and pay restitution of $277,000 to the U.S. Coast Guard and $212,000 to the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Today’s event illustrates the outstanding partnership between the Coast Guard and the Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, and we look forward to working together again and building a better partnership,” said Lt. Michael Walker, judge advocate with the Coast Guard 9th District legal office.
The Coast Guard works with the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Justice, and other federal, state and local agencies to prosecute and recover costs for the federal government on behalf of all taxpayers.