Contact: Jonathan R. Chapman
Assistant United States Attorney
Tel: (207) 780-3257
Portland, Maine: United States Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II announced that Owen R. Adair, 23, of Vinalhaven, Maine, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court by Chief Judge Nancy Torresen to one year in prison, up to one year in community confinement and three years of supervised release for making false distress calls to the U.S. Coast Guard. Adair was also ordered to repay the Coast Guard $15,000 for the costs associated with the search that it conducted in response to the hoax calls. Adair pled guilty to the charge on April 15, 2015.
According to court records, on September 30, 2014, the defendant initiated a two-way radio call using a VHF radio with a radio operator at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. In the initial radio transmission to the Coast Guard, the defendant stated: “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.” In a lengthy conversation, the defendant then repeatedly told the Coast Guard operator that he urgently needed assistance because a crewman on his fishing vessel sustained a serious injury to his neck and was bleeding badly. The Coast Guard operator repeatedly attempted to determine the position from which the defendant was calling, but the defendant gave false location information. In fact, the defendant was not aboard a vessel, but was on Vinalhaven Island and was using a VHF radio in his truck. There was also no injured person needing assistance from the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard dispatched a search and rescue vessel from Rockland. After a seven-hour search, the Coast Guard suspended the search.
"What is important to understand about this hoax call is that lives were unnecessarily put at risk while a boat crew searched seven hours offshore for a situation that did not exist," said Rear Admiral Linda Fagan, commander, First U.S. Coast Guard District. "In addition to our Coast Guard responders, multiple agencies and individuals, including medical personnel, police dispatch, harbormasters, mariners, and the Maine Marine Patrol, devoted time and resources to this case and each made extensive preparations to assist with a case that was simply a hoax."
The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.