Coast Guard seeks public’s help to identify hoax caller near Ocean City, Md.

BALTIMORE – The Coast Guard would like the public’s help to identify a suspected hoax caller, who has been transmitting distress calls since late March around Ocean City.

“Hoax calls put other boaters and first responders at risk,” said Cmdr. Mathew Fine, the deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region. “We take every call seriously, which means that hoax calls waste valuable resources that could be used for real distress cases. The Coast Guard has expended resources responding to this one caller, which is unfair to the tax payers and puts other mariners at risk.”

Sector Maryland-National Capital Region watchstanders have been receiving a steady stream of suspected or confirmed hoax radio calls, believed to be from the same individual.

The calls in Ocean City were made on VHF-FM marine band channel 16, a channel designated only for hailing and distress calls. The caller has stated that they were “going down with the ship” and regularly broadcasts “mayday, mayday, mayday,” along with a string of other calls and including profanity.

Penalties for making a false distress call can include up to 10 years in prison, $250,000 in fines, plus the cost of the search.

In 2015, a man from Vinalhaven, Maine, was sentenced to one year in prison, up to one year in community confinement and three years of supervised release for making false distress calls to the Coast Guard. In addition, he was also ordered to repay the Coast Guard $15,000 for the costs associated with the search that it conducted in response to the hoax calls.

“If you think you recognize the voice, or know who has been making these calls, please let us know,” said Cmdr. Fine. “This is the busiest time of the year for us and we need to direct all of our resources to helping people who are actually in distress.”

If you have any information leading to the identification of a hoax caller, please contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service at cgis-baltimore@uscg.mil.

A call is considered a hoax when there is an intent to deceive the Coast Guard or emergency responders.

 


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