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Beaufort man sent to prison over phony ship distress calls

Posted June 10, 2015

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— A Beaufort man was sentenced Tuesday to 28 months in federal prison for making false distress calls that led to a useless search-and-rescue operation.

U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan also ordered Brandon Paul Garner, 32, to pay $18,994 in restitution to the Coast Guard and other agencies that participated in the search.

Authorities said Garner issued a mayday call on Oct. 20, 2013, claiming that a vessel with five adults and two children was taking on water and sinking near the Core Creek Bridge in Beaufort. A helicopter from the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, a towboat from a local salvage company and emergency responders from the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office and two fire departments were deployed to assist in the search and rescue, but they found no vessel or persons in distress.

"False distress calls incur significant cost to the public by obligating search resources and vast amounts of taxpayer dollars. More importantly, they risk the very lives of responders for cases where no actual distress exists," Capt. Sean Murtagh, 2 commander of Sector North Carolina, said in a statement. "These false distress calls take search and rescue resources away from those who may be in real distress.


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