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Press Release | Oct. 13, 2023

U.S. Coast Guard seeks public assistance with hoax caller

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – The Coast Guard Investigative Service is seeking the public’s assistance with information regarding search and rescue hoax transmissions made over the course of two days. 

At 3:51 p.m., Wednesday, October 11th Coast Guard Sector Northern New England Command Center watchstanders received a report over VHF Channel 16 in a male child’s voice y boat just ran out of gas in the middle of Portland, Maine. Can you send a ski boat out to get me,” and ends the call with “S.O.S.” The call originated from a Coast Guard remote operated VHF radio tower in Charlotte, Vermont.  Using direction-finding capability, it appears the caller is in the vicinity of Burlington, Vermont along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain.

On Thursday, October 12th at 4:04 p.m., the same individual made a callout over VHF Channel 16 saying, “This is a 25-foot speedboat stuck in the middle of Maine” and again ends the call with “S.O.S.”  The caller then made two additional transmissions stating “S.O.S.” 

VHF Channel 16 is for international hailing and distress only.  Knowingly transmitting false distress calls is a federal crime under 18 U.S. Code § 1038.  It can lead to criminal and civil penalties if found guilty and can be punishable by up to ten years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines plus the cost of the search.  Deliberate misuse of distress compromises the Coast Guard’s mission of providing search and rescue assistance to the maritime community that needs it, and this crime is treated seriously. 

In 2015, a Maine man was sentenced to one year in prison, up to one year in community confinement and three years of supervised probation for making false distress calls to the Coast Guard.  In addition, he was ordered to pay $15,000 for the costs associated with the search the Coast Guard conducted in response to his hoax call.

If you recognize this voice and/or have information regarding the above incidents, please contact the Sector Northern New England Command Center at (833) 449-2407.