Rockland Man Pleads Guilty to Making Hoax Distress Call

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PORTLAND, Maine: A Rockland man pleaded guilty today in federal court to making a hoax distress call, Acting U.S. Attorney Donald E. Clark announced.

According to court documents, on December 3, 2020, while at the Spruce Head Fisherman’s Co-op, Nathan Libby, 31, communicated a false distress call for a vessel and crew reportedly taking on water in the vicinity of Spruce Head. In response, the U.S. Coast Guard initiated a search lasting more than five hours, which included the use of a local Coast Guard vessel, a Maine Marine Patrol vessel, and a helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod. Further investigation identified Libby as the caller and the search was suspended as a hoax call.

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The Coast Guard pursues all distress calls, and when dealing with hoax cases, crews will search until the nature and legitimacy of the calls are resolved.

“I applaud the collaborative efforts of the Department of Justice, Maine Marine Patrol, Rockland Police Department, and the United States Coast Guard in bringing this case to a close and ensuring accountability for Mr. Libby’s actions,” said Capt. Brian LeFebvre, Sector Commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. “Hoax calls like the call Mr. Libby placed unnecessarily put our rescue crews at risk, waste resources, and may limit our ability to respond to actual emergencies.”

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Libby faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $10,000 civil penalty and reimbursement for all costs incurred in responding to the false distress message. He will be sentenced after the completion of a presentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Maine Marine Patrol and Coast Guard Sector Northern New England investigated the case.

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