Port Graham Man Sentenced for Crimes Related to False Distress Call that Caused a Needless Search and Rescue Operation
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that a Port Graham resident has been sentenced to federal prison for causing the U.S. Coast Guard to attempt to save life and property when no help was needed, thereby causing unnecessary expenditure of vital lifesaving resources.
Ryan Riley Meganack, aka: “Unga,” 35, of Port Graham, Alaska, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason to serve 2.5 years in prison, with 15 months to be served consecutively to his 25 year (10 years suspended) state prison sentence in State of Alaska v. Meganack, 3AN-15-00683CR, following his guilty pleas to one count of false distress and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. Meganack was also ordered to pay $384,261.50 in restitution to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Meganack, a long-time commercial fisherman and a boat captain, was scheduled to plead guilty to sexual assault of an incapacitated woman in December 2016, in a separate case (State of Alaska v. Meganack, 3AN-15-00683CR). Meganack was a second time sex offender and faced many years in prison for that crime. To avoid prison, Meganack hatched a plan to fake his own death, which involved him causing a false report of distress to the U.S. Coast Guard. Meganack planned to flee Alaska when the search for him proved unsuccessful and was suspended. Meganack manipulated his younger girlfriend and co-defendant, Ivy Rose Rodriguez, now age 28, into helping him carry off the hoax to flee Alaska when the search for him proved unsuccessful.
The investigation revealed that, on Nov. 29, 2016, Meganack piloted his fishing vessel to an island near Port Graham bay alone, with his seiner skiff in tow. Meganack staged his skiff on the rocks, “swamped” it, and made it appear that he had gone missing after a boating accident or had otherwise died. Meganack then returned to Port Graham harbor, picked up Rodriguez, and traveled up Port Graham Bay, where they secured Meganack’s fishing vessel in a slough. Meganack and Rodriguez returned to Port Graham on foot. Rodriguez returned to Meganack’s mother’s residence, while Meganack went to the makeshift campsite he had previously set up, stocked with supplies, located in the woods near his mother’s residence.
In the early morning hours of Nov. 30, 2016, Rodriguez – per Meganack’s instructions – reported to Meganack’s mother that: (1) she and Meganack had fought the night before; (2) Meganack had left in his skiff; (3) he was drunk; and (4) the skiff was not working well. Between Nov. 30, 2016, and Dec. 2, 2016, Meganack and Rodriguez caused a search and rescue operation to be launched for Meganack. The weather conditions during the search were poor, with snow, high winds, and low visibility at times in the Port Graham area. Meganack was, in actuality, safe in his makeshift camp that he made for carrying out their plan.
Federal, state, and local authorities, as well Port Graham and Nanwalek residents, participated in the search for Meganack. Helicopters from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, and Coast Guard command center personnel participated in the operation. The Coast Guard alone expended approximately $384,261.50 in resources during the search for Meganack. When searchers found Meganack’s skiff, the motor was down, its throttle was forward, the key was in the “on” position, and inside was a single rubber boot and an empty bottle of liquor.
During the course of the investigation, Rodriguez cooperated and told authorities where Meganack was located and that he was armed. Meganack was later found at his makeshift camp, and in possession of a loaded semiautomatic rifle. Meganack had previously been convicted of two felony offenses, and was therefore prohibited from possessing a firearm.
In sentencing Meganack, Judge Gleason underscored the seriousness of Meganack’s false distress offense, which she recognized had “an enormous impact” on the Coast Guard and the Port Graham community and “put so many at risk” needlessly. The judge emphasized the need to send a message that those who make false distress calls to the U.S. Coast Guard will face criminal penalties.
The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) and the Alaska State Troopers (AST) conducted the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of this case. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea W. Hattan.
Updated November 8, 2018