On November 29, 2016, a West Palm Beach man was ordered to repay $1 million to the United States Coast Guard for communicating a false distress call.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Rear Admiral Scott Buschman, United States Coast Guard, District 7, made the announcement.
Richard Ohrn, 46, pled guilty to willfully communicating a false distress message to the United States Coast Guard, causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed, in violation of Title 14, United States Code, Section 88(c).
According to court records, Ohrn rented a recreational vessel on March 31, 2015, before abandoning it at sea. The vessel was later discovered by a concerned boater, who spotted several patches of blood and a broken pair of eyeglasses onboard. The United States Coast Guard was notified and launched a search and rescue effort over a three-day period. The search utilized both air and sea assets, and cost over $1 million. The investigation revealed that while the Coast Guard was searching for Ohrn he fled to Georgia, where he hid in an unfurnished apartment before returning to the West Palm Beach area on April 12, 2015.
Ohrn was sentenced to a year of probation and was ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the Coast Guard.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the United States Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy McCall.