Coast Guard seeks public’s help to identify false-distress caller in Los Angeles and Orange County

SAN PEDRO, Calif. — The Coast Guard is seeking the public’s help Thursday in finding a person who has made eight suspected false distress calls to the Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach command center since January 3.

The male caller communicates “Mayday” repeatedly through VHF-FM radio transmissions.

“Coast Guard operations are inherently dangerous and our servicemembers face risks every time we launch for a search-and-rescue mission,” said Capt. Charlene Downey, the Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach commander. “Limited resources should not be diverted away from legitimate emergencies,” she added.

The Coast Guard pursues all distress calls including suspected false distress calls until doubts as to the nature and legitimacy of the calls are resolved. Willfully communicating a false distress message to the Coast Guard is a felony offense under federal law and punishable by up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $10,000 civil penalty and reimbursement to agencies for all costs incurred in responding to the false distress message.

“The Coast Guard aims to promote safety and effectively manage our resources,” said Downey. “The risks posed by false distress calls must be stemmed and we ask anyone with information that may lead to the location of this person to contact us immediately.”

In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a sentence of 30 months confinement for each false “Mayday” message made to the Coast Guard in violation of 14 U.S.C. § 88(c.).

The recordings of the distress calls from the past two weeks are currently undergoing forensic voice analysis to aid in the investigation.

Anyone with any information about these false distress calls is encouraged to contact the Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach command center at 310-521-3801.

Click here to listen to the distress calls.

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