Former Virginia Beach man sentenced to 7 years for conspiracy and making false distress signal

5th Coast Guard District NewsNORFOLK, Va. — Larry L. Deffenbaugh, 59, formerly of Virginia Beach, Va., was sentenced Monday in Norfolk federal court to a total of seven years in prison for his conviction for conspiracy and communicating a false distress signal to the Coast Guard.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Capt. Mark Ogle, commander of the Coast Guard’s Sector Hampton Roads, made the announcement after Deffenbaugh was sentenced by United States Senior District Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. Deffenbaugh was previously convicted by a Norfolk federal jury on May 12, 2011.

“Mr. Deffenbaugh faked his own death to flee from the law, but it was only a matter of time before the law caught up to him,” said MacBride. “This is a just sentence for a man who imperiled the life of his own brother and the lives of those responding to his distress signal – all to escape responsibility for his own actions in court.”

“Making false distress calls is illegal, and it endangers first responders,” said Ogle. “It pulls Coast Guard and other rescuers from legitimate cases, thereby putting lives at risk while costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. This conviction helps stress how seriously this offense is taken.”

According to trial documents and testimony, Deffenbaugh, also known as “Mike Meyers,” was boating on the Chesapeake Bay on 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 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.

Deffenbaugh was scheduled to appear in Calvert County Maryland on a probation violation on 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 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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