Coast Guard seeks assistance in identifying Newburg hoax caller

5th Coast Guard District NewsBALTIMORE — The Coast Guard is seeking the public’s help to identify individuals responsible for possible false distress calls in the Newburg, Md., area.

Coast Guard Sector Baltimore watchstanders received a mayday call reporting a 25-foot pleasure craft with three people aboard taking on water in the lower Potomac River near Morgantown Point July 18.

The caller stated there was only one life jacket aboard, and they may have to abandon the vessel.

The watchstanders issued an urgent marine information broadcast and launched a 25-foot Response Boat – Small crew from Coast Guard Station St. Inigoes, Md., and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., along with a Maryland State Police helicopter, Maryland Natural Resources Police, Charles County Fire Department, Charles County Sheriff and Virginia Marine Police.

Agencies arrived to the reported scene of distress and found no vessels in the area or any signs of distress. The Dolphin helicopter crew logged approximately nine hours of flight time, and the RB-S crew was underway for approximately 6 hours and 30 minutes in response to the distress call.

False distress calls limit the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to actual emergencies. They also unnecessarily endanger the lives of responders and waste thousands of tax payer dollars annually.

Making a false distress call is a felony punishable by law. The maximum penalty for making a false distress call is five to 10 years in prison, a $5,000 civil fine, a $250,000 criminal fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard.

Assistance in identifying individuals such as this have resulted in convictions in the past, as in May 2011, a Norfolk, Va., federal jury convicted Larry L. Deffenbaugh, 59, formerly of Virginia Beach, Va., of conspiracy and communicating a false distress signal to the Coast Guard.

Anyone with information regarding the distress calls are asked to contact the Coast Guard at 410-576-2630.

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