News and Press Releases

Gloucester Woman Pleads Guilty to Making a False Distress Call

June 17, 2014

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Ashley Strum-Smith, age 29, of Gloucester, Va., pleaded guilty yesterday to Making a False Distress Call.

Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Rear Admiral Stephen Metruck, District Commander of the Fifth Coast Guard District, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Robert G. Doumar.

Strum-Smith pleaded guilty to a criminal information filed in United States District Court on May 27, 2014. Strum-Smith faces a maximum penalty of six years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and $82,764 in restitution when she is sentenced on October 20, 2014 in Norfolk, Va..

According to a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, on August 13, 2012, Strum-Smith called in a false report of a ship taking on water in the Severn River. Multiple rescue vehicles from the Abingdon Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, Gloucester Fire Department, York County Fire Department, Mathews Fire Department and the United States Coast Guard were dispatched to locate and aid the foundering vehicle.  After a two hour search costing over $82,000 it was determined that the call was a hoax.  Strum-Smith admitted making the false report.

This case was investigated by the Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service and the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorney Eric M. Hurt is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at or on


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