Man Gets 56 Months for False Distress Calls, Threats to Coast Guard

A Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat - Medium crew. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
A Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat - Medium crew. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

A 39-year-old Newport News man was sentenced in Norfolk federal court on Tuesday to 56 months in prison for making a false distress call and threats to the U.S. Coast Guard, officials said.

Justin P. Stahmer was convicted of the crimes by a federal jury on Nov. 13, 2017, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Court documents state that Stahmer made a false distress call on June 20, 2016 while several miles northeast of Cape Henry. He used the International Distress Frequency, VHF Channel 16, to call "man overboard," despite being alone on his boat and knowing no one had fallen in the water, according to the release.

The Coast Guard sought more information from Stahmer over the radio and launched a full search for a person in the water, including deploying a 45-foot patrol boat, an 87-foot cutter, and a search and rescue helicopter. The efforts lasted more than 45 minutes, officials said.

Stahmer was found and initially denied making the distress call to the Coast Guard. He then said he called the Coast Guard because he ran out of gas. The Coast Guard Boarding Officers inspected Stahmer's vessel, and he became belligerent and angry, officials said.

The Virginia Marine Resource Commission Police arrived and arrested Stahmer for boating under the influence of alcohol.

Stahmer kicked and threatened one of the Coast Guard Boarding Officers while being transported back to shore. He said he would "take him out" if he ever saw the Boarding Officer again, officials said.

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This article is written by Sarah Ketchum from Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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