Coast Guard seeks person responsible for hoax distress calls costing more than $200,000

Peninsula Daily News

SEATTLE — The Coast Guard is asking the public to help identify a caller who has made a series of fake distress calls in the past few weeks, including two reported in Lilliwaup Bay, a recreational area about 20 miles south of Brinnon.

On May 31 and June 1, the Coast Guard spent more than $200,000 in fuel, aircraft maintenance and other expenses that involved helicopters and boats seeking sinking boats that weren't there.

Petty Officer David Mosley in Astoria, Ore., said a man contacted the Coast Guard by radio both nights.

The first night, he said a fishing boat, the Bristol Maid, was on fire and sinking in Lilliwaup Bay and that five people were abandoning the boat.

The next night, he said the Aleutian Beauty was sinking with two adults and a child on board between Hoodsport and Lilliwaup Bay.

The Coast Guard, area law enforcement and tribal enforcement answered the calls and found nothing, Mosley said.

A man — who officials said sounded like the same man — radioed a false call about a body found near Seabeck on June 2.

Authorities were easily able to determine that call was bogus by verifying the caller's name was false, Mosley said.

The May 31 mayday call was received on VHF-FM radio channel 14 at about 11 p.m.

Two Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, a Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Seattle and a Mason County Sheriff's Office boat crew searched but found nothing.

The search was suspended five hours after the initial call. The cost of the search totaled about $138,000, the Coast Guard said.

The next evening, a similar call, also on VHF-FM radio channel 14, was received at about 9 p.m.

The caller said two adults and a child were abandoning a boat taking on water between Hoodsport and Lilliwaup Bay on Hood Canal.

At first, the man called the boat the Bristol Maid but later changed the name to the Aleutian Beauty.

Once again, a helicopter crew and boat crew searched along with the Mason County Sheriff's Office boat crew and a tribal fisheries boat crew.

After more than three hours, they found nothing. The cost of the search was about $71,059, the Coast Guard said.

Mosley said Thursday the Coast Guard hadn't received any tips despite a public outreach program and publishing audio of the call.

A news release that includes tapes of all three calls is available at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Hoax.

Mosley said all of the calls appear to have originated from the same person.

“We are hoping that people will listen to these calls and see if they recognize the person,” he said.

If the calls are found to be malicious, the caller can be liable for all recovery costs in addition to up to 10 years in jail, a $250,000 criminal fine and/or a $5,000 civil fine.

“We would like to catch this person, but we are using this as an opportunity to educate the public,” Mosley said.

“Some of these calls are hoaxes, which are criminal acts, but sometimes children are fooling around, shouting 'mayday, mayday,' and don't know that they are on the air.”

Anyone with information is asked to phone the Coast Guard 13th District Command Center at 206-220-7003.

Last modified: June 19. 2014 6:44PM
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