Detroit man pleads guilty to making hoax distress call causing 2010 Lake Erie search

9th Coast Guard District News
DETROIT — A 32-year-old Detroit man pleaded guilty Thursday to communicating a false distress message in March 2010 that resulted in a search on Lake Erie that cost taxpayers more than $50,000.

Rear Adm. Michael N. Parks, commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District, and Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said Craig C. Sanders could be ordered to pay about $53,000 in restitution for knowingly and willfully causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed, which is a violation of Title 14, U.S. Code, section 88(c).

Sanders could also face up to six years in prison and a $5,000 civil fine when sentenced.

Sanders telephoned the Coast Guard on March 11, 2010, and said his boat had capsized in Lake Erie. He told the Coast Guard he was the only member of his family who made it to shore and said he had been wearing a life jacket while other members of his family had not. He added that he was unable to find a buddy, but hung up before the Coast Guard was able to gather additional information.

Coast Guard boat crews from stations Toledo and Marblehead, Ohio, joined an MH-65C rescue helicopter crew from Air Station Detroit in an eight-hour search on Lake Erie. Ultimately, the call was revealed as a hoax.

“We hope that prosecutions like this one will deter others from making false reports to the Coast Guard so that the Coast Guard can instead focus on real emergencies,” McQuade said.

The case was investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary M. Felder and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Fowles of the Coast Guard.

“Hoax calls cost taxpayers a great deal of money and pull our critical resources from actual operations and emergencies,” said Parks. “These charges send a clear message that hoax calls will not be taken lightly and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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