US man fined £180,000 and given prison sentence for claiming boat is sinking

A man has been fined $347,000 (£180,000) and sentenced to two and half years in prison for making a hoax distess call.

American Robert Moran, 45, made a call to the US Coast Guard claiming a boat with nine people aboard was sinking off the Florida coast. His call prompted a two-day search operation, involving aircraft and vessels from multiple agencies, combing 2,560sq km of ocean. Mr Moran’s defence lawyer said Moran was under the influence of alcohol and painkillers at the time and never intended to harm anyone.

In July this year 19-year-old Briton Joel Meakin was given a two-year suspended sentence and made to pay £500 to Skegness RNLI for a hoax call. However, Guernsey diver Matt Harvey, who faked his own disappearance in September, sparking a £10,000 two-day search, escaped without even a fine (Read story)

In 2005 the Maritime and Coastguard Agency experienced 406 hoax calls, over 100 more than in 2004. Coastguard officer Sam Jessop, said ‘Our main concern is the serious impact a hoax call can have on a genuine casualty in need of our assistance, not to mention the cost of identifying a hoax call, which can be well over £100,000.’