Hoax caller to pay the price

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AUGUST 7 - A Massachusetts fisherman has been sentenced to a year and a half in prison and ordered to pay more than $80,000 in restitution for making two false distress calls to the Coast Guard on his VHF.

Fairhaven resident Brian Feener, 21, had pleaded guilty in May to two counts of communicating a false distress message and two counts of making a false statement, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. In July, a U.S. District Court judge ordered Feener to serve the 18-month prison term and then undergo three years of supervised release. He also was ordered to pay $82,004 in restitution.

Prosecutors say that in 2004 Feener radioed the Coast Guard on two occasions from his home, claiming he was the captain of a fishing vessel in distress off Massachusetts. In response the Coast Guard launched costly search-and-rescue missions that lasted a combined 13 hours.

In the last five years, according to the Coast Guard, there have been 69 confirmed and 387 suspected hoax calls made off New Jersey and New England. Those calls cost the Coast Guard nearly $14 million in operating expenses.

— Jason Fell