Reward offered in New Jersey coast hoax distress call

Posted: June 13, 2012

The Coast Guard is offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of whoever made a fake distress call reporting an explosion and sinking of a yacht off the New Jersey coast.

The call Monday claimed there had been an blast aboard the yacht Blind Date and that 21 people aboard, including seven who had been injured, had taken to life rafts off Sandy Hook.

The Coast Guard said a later call reported that three people had died.

The Coast Guard joined by law enforcement marine units launched a major search and rescue operation, but officials later determined the call was a hoax when they spotted no wreckage.

"More than 200 first responders assembled mass casualty receptions areas in Newark, and Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, N.J., preparing to receive the reported injured passengers," said Cmdr. Kenneth Pierro, of Coast Guard Sector New York.

Making a false distress call is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of five to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and reimbursement for the cost of the search.

Last year, the Coast Guard and other state and local agencies responded to more than 60 suspected hoax calls in the northern New Jersey, New York City and Hudson River region, officials said.

Anyone with information regarding this and any other false distress calls is asked to contact the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service at 646-872-5774 or 212-668-7048. Tipsters are promised anonymity.

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