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Coast Guard Offers $2,000 Reward For Man Behind Hoax Distress Calls

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A call for help turns out to be a fake, and it isn't the first time this has happened. The U.S. Coast Guard in Maryland says a man has made more than 10 false distress calls.

Jessica Kartalija reports they need help tracking him down.

When someone cries "mayday" over the radio, crews spring into action.

"The Coast Guard takes these calls very seriously any time they receive a mayday call," said Lt. Commander Richard Armstrong, U.S. Coast Guard.

"Mayday, mayday, mayday. Help. One of our boats has capsized," a caller said.

But these calls are phony.

"For the last two and a half months, the Coast Guard has received 11 false distress calls. These calls have originated from the Kent Island area," Armstrong said.

They know, thanks to a communication center that tracks where the calls are coming from.

A similar hoax took place last summer in Middle River, sending the Coast Guard on wild goose chases that cost $70,000. Questioning whether a call is legit is not an option.

"When we don't take those seriously, that will be the one time that it is an actual true distress call," said Armstrong.

So far, these fake calls have already cost the Coast Guard some $45,000, tying up resources that could save lives.

"You're also limiting our response capabilities when we do have to search for a boater in distress," Armstrong said.

Making a fake call of distress is a felony, punishable with up to six years in jail and possible reimbursement for the cost.

The Coast Guard Investigative Service is offering a $2,000 reward for information that leads to the identification of the person involved with the hoax calls.

Anyone with any information is urged to call the investigative service at 410-576-2515.

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