The U.S. Coast Guard received hoax distress calls from a person believed to be making fake radio transmissions from a location between New Smyrna and St. Augustine. Officials said the calls were made by the same person who radioed several other hoax distress calls on Thursday and over the weekend, according to the report. The calls have been made over a non-existent radio frequency and report that a vessel is sinking. The Coast Guard responds to every call as if it was an actual call for help and stressed that they would like to capture the prankster because searches are time consuming and expensive.
Recent Coast Guard searches for the phony ships have already costs tens of thousands of dollars. A news release said a falcon jet costs nearly $7,000 hourly to operate, and a Coast Guardhelicopter can cost nearly $10,000 an hour to operate. For Thursday's case, the rescue boats searched a total of eight hours; the falcon jet searched a total of three hours; and the rescue helicopter searched for nearly three hours. 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 anyone has information concerning the hoax caller, they are urged to call Crimeline at (800) 423-TIPS.