Coast Guard looking to identify hoax caller

The U.S. Coast Guard is looking to identify a Southern Maryland caller officials said made nearly more than a dozen false distress calls in recent weeks.

Coast Guard officials said searches related to the hoax calls cost about $15,000 and could place the public in danger by diverting resources. The calls are believed to come from a male caller in Leonardtown.

"Making false distress calls limits the Coast Guard and our rescue partners' capabilities to assist those boaters who are in actual emergency situations," Capt. Kevin Kiefer, commander of Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, said in a statement. "Hoax radio calls also place first responders in unnecessary danger as they work to assist the boating public."

The caller made 11 false distress calls on June 21 and several more in July, officials said. In recordings released by the Coast Guard, a voice that sounds like that of a teenage boy tells the Coast Guard "I need help" and "I repeat, I'm sinking, mayday, mayday."

The calls were transmitted over VHF-FM marine radio channel 16. Making a false distress call is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison, reimbursement to the Coast Guard a $5,000 civil fine and a $250,000 criminal fine.

The Coast Guard Investigative Service is offering a reward of $2,000 for information leading to the identification of the caller. Anyone with information is asked to call 410-576-2696.

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