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Press Release | March 20, 2024

VIDEO/AUDIO RELEASE: Coast Guard continues to investigate hoax distress calls near Baltimore, seeks community support to identify caller’s voice


Editor's Note: Click above images for Coast Guard public service announcement video and false distress call recording

BALTIMORE – The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) continues to investigate hoax calls Wednesday and is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the individual responsible for making multiple false distress calls that are originating from the Baltimore area.

The series of falsified distress calls began on February 17. At least 16 hoax calls have been transmitted over VHF channel 16. 

The calls are believed to have originated from the Strawberry Point area in Baltimore and consist of an individual calling out for help with no location or description of their vessel or nature of distress.

If you have information regarding the above incidents, or recognize the voice in the audio clip, please contact the CGIS tip line at (410) 576-2555.  

CGIS is offering $1,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and/or prosecution of the hoax caller.

VHF Channel 16 is for hailing and distress only. Knowingly transmitting false distress calls is a federal crime under 18 U.S. Code § 1038 and can lead to criminal and civil penalties if found guilty. The misuse 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 calls compromises the Coast Guard’s mission of providing search and rescue assistance to the maritime community.

“Hoax calls such as these are no joking matter and have a direct impact on our search and rescue readiness,” said Cmdr. Roberto Concepcion, chief of response for Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region. “Our crews and watchstanders may be distracted by these hoax calls, diverting their attention from potential, real emergencies elsewhere, putting people’s lives at risk.

- USCG -