Toledo man pleads guilty, sentenced for making HOAX call to Coast Guard

CLEVELAND – William J. Edwards, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Rear Adm. Peter V. Neffenger, Commander, Ninth Coast Guard District, announce that Frederico C. Flores, 22, of Toledo, Ohio, was sentenced on Monday to three years supervised release with standard and special conditions, and ordered to pay $112,735 in restitution to the U.S Coast Guard for making a false distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard on March 12, 2009.

Flores, who pled guilty on June 29, 2009, utilized a hand-held VHF radio and transmitted several false distress calls, over channel 16, to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit during a 27-hour time frame.

The false distress calls were transmitted from an apartment complex in Toledo, and caused numerous Coast Guard and local emergency response assets to search for hours for, what was believed to be, a vessel in distress. The cost of the search exceeded $112,000.

A coordinated effort between U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Federal Communications Commission, determined the source and location of the transmission and led to the arrest of Flores.

Anyone who knowingly and willfully communicates a false distress message to the U.S. Coast Guard or causes the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed is a violation of 14 U.S.C. 88(c). The penalties for this federal felony can include up to six years in prison; $250,000 fine; $5,000 civil penalty and the possible reimbursement to the U.S. Coast Guard for performing the search.

“False distress calls are a tremendous concern, not only because of the waste of resources, but especially because resources responding to a false distress are not available to respond to an actual person in distress. It could cost someone more than money,” said Rear Adm. Neffenger.

“I commend Sector Detroit, CGIS, and the FCC for their efforts in locating the source and arresting the violator; and Asst. U.S. Attorney Thomas O. Secor and Special Asst. U.S. Attorney Ted Fowles, of the Coast Guard, for their efforts to prosecute the violator,” added Neffenger.

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