Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Making A False Distress Call

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Acting United States Attorney James R. Klindt today announced Zachary Ryan Werthem, a 23 year old resident of Daytona Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty to making a false distress signal to the Coast Guard.

The maximum penalty Werthem faces is up to six (6) years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, up to three (3) years of supervised release, and a special assessment of $100. A sentencing date has not been set and Werthem was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.

According to court documents, Werthem made a false Mayday call to the Coast Guard, which resulted in an unnecessary search and rescue operation that cost an estimated $75,000. Werthem signaled the Coast Guard in Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 26, 2006, claiming he had a small hole in the bow of his boat and that his vessel was taking on water.

In fact, Werthem was at the time using a marine band radio in a pickup truck in a parking lot in Volusia County. The Coast Guard searched an area of the Atlantic Ocean off of Ponce de Leon Inlet for more than an hour using vessels, aircraft and a helicopter.

This case was investigated by agents of the Coast Guard Investigative Service. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Dale R. Campion.

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