Coast Guard Seeks Public’s Help With Hoax Calls, Caller’s Identity

OCEAN CITY — The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking the public’s help in identifying a suspected hoax caller who has been transmitting bogus distress calls over the last few months.

Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region officials have been receiving a steady stream of suspected or confirmed hoax calls believed to be from the same individual since March. The calls from the Ocean City area were made on VHF-FM marine band channel 16, a channel designated only for hailing and distress calls.

The caller has stated during the transmissions “he is going down with the ship,” along with a steady stream of “mayday, mayday, mayday” calls. In some instances, the caller uses profanity. In other cases, others can be heard chuckling in the background. Despite suspecting the calls are phony, the Coast Guard is required to play close attention to the calls and respond accordingly in the event one or more of them turn out to be genuine distress calls.

“Hoax calls put other boaters and first-responders at risk,” said Matthew Fine, Deputy Commander of Sector Maryland-National Capital Region. “We take every call seriously, which means that hoax calls waste valuable resources responding to this one caller, which is unfair to the taxpayers and puts other mariners at risk.”

Penalties for making false distress calls can include up to 10 years in prison, $250,000 in fines plus the cost of the search. In 2015, a Maine man was sentenced to one year in prison, up to one year in community confinement and three years of supervised probation for making false distress calls to the Coast Guard. In addition, he was ordered to pay $15,000 for the costs associated with the search the Coast Guard conducted in response to his hoax call.

The Coast Guard has made available a sample of one of the hoax calls originating from the Ocean City area on its website and social media platforms and is encouraging the public to listen to the recording and help identify a suspect. Fine said the spree of hoax calls during the summer boating season only complicates the problem.

“If you think you recognize the voice, or know who has been making these calls, please let us know,” he said. “This is the busiest time of year for us and we need to direct all of our resources to helping people who are actually in distress.”

A call is considered a hoax when there is an intent to deceive the Coast Guard or emergency responders. Anyone who may have information leading to the identification of the caller is urged to contact the Coast Guard investigative service at [email protected]. The audio can be heard at

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.