Coast Guard Investigating Hoax Distress Calls

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. – Coast Guard Sector North Carolina has received multiple hoax distress calls through out the Wilmington, New River, Onslow Bay and surrounding areas. Sector NC and surrounding units are investigating these calls but have not identified these callers. Although some calls are believed to originate from the same caller there may be more then one person responsible.

The Coast Guard is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying the callers broadcasting these false distress calls. The Coast Guard is offering a reward for information leading to the successful prosecution of the responsible person or parties.

Sector NC has received numerous calls over the past year, that appear to be hoax. The most recent was received on the 13th of September, 18th of September and the 19th. Willfully transmitting a false distress call is a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment and fines as outlined below.

According to Section 303 of the U.S. Communications Act passed in 1934, any radio operator, whether at home, on a boat or in a business, is required to allow an FCC agent to inspect his radio equipment at any time. To deny this could result in a maximum fine of $7,000. The Studds Act was also passed in November 1990. This act states that a false distress call is a class D Felony, and a convicted hoax caller is subject to a fine of up to $250,000 and up to six years in prison. The caller might also have to reimburse the Coast Guard for the cost of the search. The caller is also subject to an FCC civil fine of up to $8,000. If the public has any information, you are requested to contact Coast Guard Investigative Service, Wilmington, NC office at (910) 772-2229.

If a hoax caller is not caught the taxpayers pay the cost of the search. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft cost about $4,244 an hour to operate, Coast Guard helicopters cost about $4,400 an hour, Coast Guard cutters cost about $1,550 an hour to operate and Coast Guard small boats also cost between $300 to $400 an hour to run.

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