Coast Guard looking for source of hoax distress calls in Cape Coral

Posted at 7:51 AM, Mar 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-24 18:40:53-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- The U.S. Coast Guard says they've been receiving numerous hoax calls for help in the Cape Coral area, and want to know who is responsible.

According to Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, watch standers report a steady stream of suspected or confirmed hoax radio calls along the Gulf Coast over the course of the last year, with the majority of the calls are within the Cape Coral area.

The calls were made on VHF-FM marine band channel 16, a channel designated only for hailing and distress calls. A call is considered a hoax when there is an intent to deceive the Coast Guard or emergency responders.

“Hoax calls are costly to the taxpayer and our service,” said Charles ‘Marty’ Russell, resident agent-in-charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service office in St. Petersburg. “When the Coast Guard receives a distress call, we immediately respond, putting our crews at risk, and risking the lives of boaters who may legitimately need our help.”

Penalties for making a false distress call can include six years in prison, $250,000 criminal fine, $5,000 civil fine and restitution to the Coast Guard and local agencies.

If you have any information leading to the identification of a hoax caller, please contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service tip line at 727-535-1437, ext. 2308.