LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Rear Admiral David W. Kunkel, Commander Seventh Coast Guard District, announced today that Robert J. Moran, 45, of Boynton Beach, Florida, pled guilty in Miami to a charge of making a false distress call to the Coast Guard on June 11, 2006, in violation of Title 14, United States Code, Section 88(c).
Moran is scheduled to be sentenced on October 30, 2006 at 4:00 pm before the Honorable Joan A. Lenard, United States District Court Judge, who accepted his guilty plea. Moran faces a possible term of imprisonment of up to five years and a criminal fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from his relevant conduct. Additionally, the enabling statute in Title 14, which provides the legal authority for the Coast Guard’s historic role as America’s maritime search and rescue agency, provides for the recovery from the responsible party for all costs incurred by the Coast Guard as a result of a false distress call.
According to the Indictment and statements in Court, on June 11, 2006, Moran knowingly and willfully made a series of broadcasts to the United States Coast Guard unit at Miami Beach, Florida, during which he claimed that his thirty-three feet vessel, named the “BLUE SHEEP,”was taking on water and sinking near Boynton Beach Inlet. Moran claimed during the broadcast that among the nine persons on board, who allegedly took to the water in life jackets, were four children and his injured wife. During a search lasting almost two full days and covering over 1,000 square miles between Boynton Beach Inlet and St. Lucie Inlet, neither the boat nor the “victims” were ever located. Assistance efforts also had to deal with the unsettled weather associated with the passage of Tropical Storm Alberto across the Florida peninsula during the time frame of the search. The search effort, which included private and commercial craft, Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office units, and vessels and aircraft from the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, cost the public in excess of $347,000.
The Coast Guard maintains both aviation and water borne assets on alert throughout South Florida, to respond to maritime distress calls, as well as to meet its other enforcement obligations, including homeland security, drug interdiction, and commercial vessel safety. As a result of the distress call received by Coast Guard Sector Miami, two fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters were launched by the Coast Guard to search for the boat and people allegedly in distress, and a variety of surface units to aid in the search.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Southeast Region Special Agents and the Boynton Beach Police Department, whose investigative efforts led to the charges in this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and John Kastrenakes.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/.