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Man Gets 18 Months for Hoax Distress Call to Coast Guard


U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Public Affairs
Date: November 8, 2010
Contact: Anthony Turner
News Release

WASHINGTON – Most people in America are familiar with 911 and know that a call to 911 is how to summons help in an emergency. Most people also know that making a false 911 call is illegal. Penalties for making a false 911 call have been increased, for example early this year the State of Illinois passed a law that goes into effect on January 1, 2011 imposing greater penalties on individuals found guilty of making a false 911 call.

What most people might not realize is that a false distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard is also a crime. In the boating world a distress call on marine VHF radio channel 16 is the same a placing a 911 call via cell or landline phone.

Recently a Detroit resident was convicted and sentenced in federal court for making a false distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard, according to United States Attorney Barbara McQuade and Captain Stephen Torpey, Chief of Incident Management for the Ninth Coast Guard District.

Andre D. Cheatom, 19 years old, was sentenced to 18 months incarceration, supervised release for three years, a special assessment of $100.00, and ordered to pay $14,302 in restitution for knowingly and willfully causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed, in violation of Title 14, U.S. Code, section 88(c).

“When members of the Coast Guard respond to a hoax call, they are diverted from people in actual distress,” McQuade said. “We take a hard line on these cases because we want to deter people from making hoax calls.”

“I am concerned that there are people willing to risk the lives of other boaters who might be in legitimate need of rescue or assistance, as well as needlessly endangering response crews, by knowingly making a false distress call,” said Captain Stephen Torpey, Chief of Incident Management for the Ninth Coast Guard District. “This conviction demonstrates the lengths we will go to ensure those who make hoax calls are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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