Former Virginia Beach man convicted of making false distress signal

NORFOLK, Va. — A Norfolk federal jury has convicted Larry L. Deffenbaugh, 59, formerly of Virginia Beach, Va., of conspiracy and communicating a false distress signal to the Coast Guard.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia made the announcement Thursday.

Deffenbaugh was previously indicted on the federal charges, April 8, 2011 and is scheduled to be sentenced, Sept. 19, 2011.

According to trial documents and testimony, Deffenbaugh, also known as “Mike Meyers,” was boating on the Chesapeake Bay, May 10, 2009 with his brother when he led his brother to believe that he had fallen from the boat and into the bay, thereby causing his brother to contact Coast Guard authorities seeking help. As a result of the allegedly false distress call, the Coast Guard deployed resources in an effort to save Deffenbaugh’s life, even though he was not in any peril. Despite an extensive search, the Coast Guard search team could find no trace of Deffenbaugh.

“Making false distress calls is by no means a victimless crime,” said Capt. Ed Gibbons, chief of staff for Coast Guard 5th District. “It risks the lives of responders, costs tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and pulls resources from legitimate enforcement and response activities. This conviction helps stress how seriously this offense is taken.”

Deffenbaugh was scheduled to appear in Calvert County, Md. on a probation violation, May 12, 2009. Deffenbaugh failed to appear. In February 2010, Deffenbaugh’s story was broadcast on the television program, “America’s Most Wanted.” Based upon a viewer’s tip, Deffenbaugh was located in Baytown, Texas, living under the assumed name, “Mike Meyers.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Chesapeake Region. Assistant United States Attorney Joseph L. Kosky prosecuted the case for the United States.

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