Local News

NC man pleads guilty to fake 'mayday' calls

Posted May 2, 2014 4:05 p.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2014 5:18 p.m. EDT

— An Atlantic Beach man pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to making false distress calls last year to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Homer Lewis Blackburn, 27, faces up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced, U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker said. He also could be ordered to pay restitution in the rescue operation that cost about $288,000.

Authorities said Blackburn made a “mayday” call to the Coast Guard on Oct. 8, claiming that he was sinking and abandoning his boat near Cape Lookout and Shackleford Banks. The Coast Guard led a search effort that included help from U.S. Marines, the National Park Service and a private salvage company.

A witness later told authorities that the call was a hoax perpetrated by Blackburn, who mounted a CB radio to the balcony of his Atlantic Beach apartment to make the call. The witness said Blackburn watched from his balcony as helicopters searched Cape Lookout.

Another witness came forward and said Blackburn was bragging about the calls. Blackburn later confessed.

“False distress calls limit the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to actual emergencies,” Capt. Sean Murtagh, commander of the Coast Guard’s North Carolina sector, said in a statement. “Ultimately, they penalize the local communities and mariners the Coast Guard is charged to protect by unnecessarily endangering the lives of responders and wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.”