Hoax Caller Arrested by Dorchester County Sheriff

BALTIMORE – Dorchester County Sheriffs Office took a Taylor’s Island, Md., man into custody this morning after he reportedly made a false distress call that resulted in a search and rescue effort from multiple agencies.

The hoax caller called Dorchester County 911 as well as Coast Guard Sector Baltimore at about midnight and reported that his vessel was taking on water in the Honga River near the Narrows Ferry Bridge.

Coast Guard Sector Baltimore responded by deploying a 25-foot response boat crew from Station Crisfield, Md. and a rescue helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J. Other assets involved in the search included Deputies from the Dorchester County Sheriffs Office, two Maryland State Police helicopters and volunteer fire companies from the Hooper’s Island and Taylor’s Island stations.

The hoax caller is being held at Dorchester County Detention Center in Cambridge, Md.

“The harsh reality of hoax distress calls is that every call received by the Coast Guard is treated as a real distress case,” said Capt. Brian Kelley, Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Sector Baltimore. “While our boats or aircraft are out searching in response to a hoax call, another boater in actual distress may not get timely assistance. Lives could be lost.”

Under federal law, knowingly and willfully making a false distress call is a felony. The maximum penalty for making hoax distress calls is five to 10 years in prison, a $5,000 civil fine, a $250,000 criminal fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the costs incurred responding to the false call.

If a hoax caller is not caught, the taxpayers pay the cost of the search. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft cost about $12,451 an hour to operate, Coast Guard helicopters cost range from $6,000 to $9,500 an hour, Coast Guard cutters cost about $14,000 an hour to operate and Coast Guard small boats also cost $600 an hour to run. Hoax distress calls place unnecessary risk on the rescuers responding to the calls, and interfere with legitimate search and rescue cases. Hoax calls cost the American taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

The Coast Guard needs the assistance of the public to reduce hoax calls. This can be done by:

* Removing radios or locking them up when not in use,

* Teach children that unauthorized use puts people in danger,

* Report suspect hoaxers; U.S. Coast Guard Tip line 1-800-2NO-HOAX

All calls are confidential. Tipsters can remain anonymous if they choose.

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