Appeals court upholds fine of nearly $500,000 for false distress call

Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a restitution payment of nearly $500,000 as part of the sentence handed down in United States of America v. Danik Shiv Kumar for making a false distress call that caused a massive search on Lake Erie in March 2012.

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The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay prepare to moor in their homeport of Rockland April 3, 2012. The Thunder Bay crew returned home after a four-month deployment breaking ice in the Great Lakes. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit seal. Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a restitution payment of nearly $500,000 as part of the sentence handed down in United States of America v. Danik Shiv Kumar for making a false distress call that caused a massive search on Lake Erie in March 2012. Kumar was originally sentenced to three months in federal custody and ordered to pay $489,007 in restitution to the U.S. and Canadian governments for cost incurred during a 21-hour search for four boaters reported to be in distress.

“Rescue agencies throughout the nation routinely put forth maximum effort to rescue citizens in distress. First, responders often do so at great personal risk and frequently put their own lives in danger to aid others. The annals of rescue work are filled with accounts of heroes who gave their all to save others,” said Capt. Peter F. Martin, chief, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue.

A U.S. Coast Guard aircrew from Air Station Detroit conducts a joint hoist rescue exercise in western Lake Erie with the Canadian Coast Guard 47-foot motor life boat Cape Lambton, from Canadian Coast Guard Base Amherstburg, Ontario, May 1, 2013. With the Great Lakes being a shared treasure of the U.S. and Canada, enhancing binational cooperation and governance is one of the six strategic objectives of the Coast Guard's Great Lakes Maritime Strategy. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
A U.S. Coast Guard aircrew from Air Station Detroit conducts a joint hoist rescue exercise in western Lake Erie with the Canadian Coast Guard 47-foot motor life boat Cape Lambton, from Canadian Coast Guard Base Amherstburg, Ontario, May 1, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“The Coast Guard, much like local fire departments, is often the victim of false distress calls or hoaxes as they are known in the profession,” said Martin. “Individuals who perpetrate these crimes put our first responders at unnecessary risk and potentially deny precious rescue resources to those actually in need. At a minimum, response to hoax calls expends scarce public resources, which ultimately come at the expense of taxpayers. The Federal government will continue to prosecute those who commit these crimes and encourage the public to assist our efforts in combating this senseless public safety threat.”

The $489,007 restitution amount represents the cost of the search. The amount is comprised of the $277,257 expended by U.S. agencies and the $211,750 cost to the Canadian government. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay searched for 21 hours, while multiple boat crews from Coast Guard Station Lorain, Ohio, searched for about 16 hours. Rescue helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit joined in the search, as did a Canadian Coast Guard airplane crew from Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton, Ontario, according to court documents.

2 comments on “Appeals court upholds fine of nearly $500,000 for false distress call”

  1. Should have been $1,000,000.00. The Coast Guard, American and Canadian are vital assets to area Fishermen and Women, as well as the non-commercial sectors. They deserve all the praise we can give them and not waste their time on bogus calls.

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