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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Beaufort Resident Sentenced For Making False Distress Calls To The U.S. Coast Guard

NEW BERN – United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that yesterday in federal court, United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan sentenced BRANDON PAUL GARNER , 32, of Beaufort, North Carolina, to 28 months of imprisonment and 3 years supervised release and was ordered to pay $18,994.00 in restitution.  On March 10, 2015 GARNER entered a guilty plea to making false distress calls to the United States Coast Guard.

"The Coast Guard has a long and proud history of Search and Rescue, often at great personal risk to those who chose to devote their life to the service of others.  False distress calls incur significant cost to the public by obligating search resources and vast amounts of tax payer dollars.  More importantly, they risk the very lives of responders for cases where no actual distress exists.  Additionally, these false distress calls take search and rescue resources away from those who may be in real distress," said Captain Sean Murtagh, commander of Sector North Carolina.  “Through the vigilance of the public, our strong partnerships with the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and our Coast Guard Investigative Service, this case affirms our collective commitment to holding accountable those individuals who make hoax calls."

According to information in the public record, on October 20, 2013, the United States Coast Guard received a “MayDay” call in which the caller claimed a vessel with five adults and two children was taking on water and sinking near the Core Creek Bridge in Beaufort, North Carolina.  The calls indicated that one child was stuck on the vessel and could not be seen.  Upon receipt of the distress call, small boats from Coast Guard Station Fort Macon, North Carolina; a helicopter from the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina; a towboat from a local salvage company; and emergency responders from the sheriff’s office and two fire departments were deployed to assist in the search and rescue of the vessel.  However, response crews found no vessel or persons in distress.  Ultimately, the Coast Guard determined that the call was a hoax, but not until after $18,994.00 worth of resources were expended.

The search and rescue efforts were led by United States Coast Guard – 5th District and Coast Guard Sector North Carolina.  The criminal investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service.  Assistant United States Attorney Susan B. Menzer prosecuted the case.

Updated July 14, 2015