Navy Vet Who Faked His Death at Sea Gets 1 Year of Probation

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A former financial adviser from Boca Raton will have to pay $1 million for the cost of searching for him after he faked his death at sea.

But Richard Winsor Ohrn, 46, won't have to go to prison. He was sentenced Tuesday to a year of probation.

He and his wife are selling their home, which has an assessed value of $550,000, and Ohrn has agreed to pay his half of the proceeds to the government, his lawyer said. He must also pay $400 per month in restitution.

The boat that Ohrn had rented was found on March 31, 2015, smeared with blood and looking like there had been a struggle abandoned in the water about six miles off Lake Worth Inlet. Investigators initially thought it was a crime scene and that Ohrn had been harmed.

The Coast Guard launched a futile air-and-sea rescue effort that lasted three days and cost more than $1 million, according to court records.

In August, Ohrn pleaded guilty to a federal charge of communicating a false distress message. The maximum penalty for the offense is six years in federal prison. Ohrn was released on $1 million bond shortly after he was charged in February.

The prosecution and defense both recommended that U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg impose the lesser punishment of probation. They said Ohrn acted out of desperation during a severe personal crisis.

Ohrn, a Navy veteran who worked as a bank financial adviser, was affected by mounting financial problems and stresses linked to his wife's life-threatening health problems, which the defense said are still affecting her today.

Yacht crew members, who spotted the abandoned SeaRay 185 Sport vessel, called for help. Coast Guard air and sea crews ended the search on April 2, 2015, as hope faded for Ohrn's survival.

Ten days later, Ohrn showed up in Palm Beach County. When investigators questioned him, he "admitted to faking his disappearance, stating that he decided to 'just go away' due to his anxiety," according to his plea agreement.

Ohrn admitted he staged a struggle or incident on the boat and said he used an inflatable vessel to return to shore. He said he drove to Albany, Ga., in his pickup and stayed in an unfurnished apartment, rented under another name.

Ohrn said he planned to kill himself there but changed his mind and returned home. He has sought more mental health treatment, his son is doing better, and Ohrn and his wife are setting up a pest control business, his lawyer said.

The judge told Ohrn it was clear that he had not acted out of disrespect for the law. She agreed with prosecutors that the consequences Ohrn faced -- being a convicted felon on probation who now owes $1 million to the government -- were sufficient to punish him and deter other people who might consider committing a similar crime.

"Hopefully, the worst is behind you," the judge told Ohrn, wishing him good luck at successfully completing probation.

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