The U.S. Coast Guard has received six phony mayday calls in the last week. All six calls came from the same male voice claiming a boat was sinking in Newport Harbor. Officials say no matter how odd the call may seem, they'll deploy the necessary resources to respond -- which, in this case, has cost tens of thousands of dollars. If convicted, the hoaxer faces six years in jail or a $250,000 fine. Vikki Vargas reports from Newport Beach for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2012.
Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent responding to fake mayday calls over the past week, and officials believe the phony calls are being made by a man in Orange County.
The business of the U.S. Coast Guard is to search and rescue. They respond to mayday calls made on maritime radio, a system similar to 911 calls with one difference: the calls cannot be traced.
Last week the Coast Guard received six fake mayday calls, all from the same person, claiming that a boat was sinking in Newport Harbor.
“Just because we get something in, if it sounds funny, or their description is a weird thing to say, it doesn’t matter to us. We’re getting the ball rolling. We’re getting people in motion to go out there and help someone,” said Adam Eggers of the U.S. Coast Guard.
When the phony calls came in, helicopters werelaunched at the price of $11,000 an hour. Search and rescue boats, which cost another $8,000 an hour, also responded and then there’s the manpower.
The Coast Guard handles about 300 legitimate rescue operations every year off the Southern California coast.
If convicted of calling in fake reports, which is a felony, the person responsible could face six years in jail or a $250,000 fine.