NC man gets 3+ years in prison for making false distress calls to US Coast Guard

DOD file image of a Coast Guard member taking a call while on a patrol.

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCN) — An NC man was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday for making false distress calls to the US Coast Guard.

Charles Robert Dowd, age 27, of Beaufort, was sentenced to more than 3 years of prison and 3 years supervised release and was ordered to pay $18,994 in restitution, said United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker.

On September 16, 2015 Dowd entered a guilty plea to making false distress calls to the United States Coast Guard.

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.

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, a helicopter from the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, 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 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 taxpayer 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.

Assistant United States Attorney Susan B. Menzer prosecuted the case.

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