Coast Guard seeks public help to identify hoax callers

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Coast Guard asks for the public’s help Friday to identify hoax callers in the Cape Coral area.

For the past year, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg watch standers received a steady stream of suspected or confirmed hoax radio calls along the Gulf Coast – the majority of the calls are within the Cape Coral area.

The calls were made on VHF-FM marine band channel 16, a channel designated only for hailing and distress calls. A call is considered a hoax when there is an intent to deceive the Coast Guard or emergency responders.

“Hoax calls are costly to the taxpayer and our service,” said Charles ‘Marty’ Russell, resident agent-in-charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service office in St. Petersburg. “When the Coast Guard receives a distress call, we immediately respond, putting our crews at risk, and risking the lives of boaters who may legitimately need our help.”

Penalties for making a false distress call can include six years in prison, $250,000 criminal fine, $5,000 civil fine and restitution to the Coast Guard and local agencies.

If you have any information leading to the identification of a hoax caller, please contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service tip line at 727-535-1437, ext. 2308.

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