Coast Guard investigating hoax distress calls near Hobe Sound, Fla.

Lady JusticeMIAMI – The Coast Guard is investigating a series of hoax mayday calls after multiple false distress calls were made on VHF-FM Channel 16 over the past month near Hobe Sound, Fla.

The Coast Guard received a series of hoax mayday calls in early November from a person in the vicinity of Hobe Sound stating he was in distress and his boat was sinking due to a crack in the hull. When asked to provide his position the caller provided fraudulent GPS coordinates.

These lengthy calls interrupted search-and-rescue cases and normal Coast Guard operations. Using the Rescue 21 Radio System, which is normally used for communications and to locate individuals in distress, the Coast Guard triangulated a general area where the calls originated.

The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) is currently working with the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the false distress calls.

The Coast Guard would like to remind individuals that false distress calls place unnecessary risk on rescuers, interfere with legitimate search-and-rescue cases and keep Coast Guard personnel from conducting other important missions. Hoax calls cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Under federal law, knowingly and willfully transmitting a hoax distress call is a felony. It is punishable by up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution to the Coast Guard for all costs incurred while responding to the distress.

Anyone who has any information on who may have placed these false distress calls is urged to contact the U.S. Coast Guard Tipline at 305-535-4472.

All calls are confidential and persons can remain anonymous if they choose.

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