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Hoax marine callers to pay for ‘rescue’

Caught and convicted, two men with similar stories face prison time and finacial restitution to the C.G.

Caught and convicted, two men with similar stories face prison time and finacial restitution to the C.G.

One man has been sentenced to two months in prison and must pay $60,502 in restitution and another faces six years behind bars and a $250,000 penalty in two separate hoax calls to the Coast Guard four years ago.

“False distress calls not only cost taxpayers money and place Coast Guard members at increased personal risk, but more importantly, they divert limited resources from mariners who are in actual distress,” said Capt. Mark D’Andrea, chief of response for the Coast Guard’s Thirteenth District.

Jesse Walon Murphy, 27, is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on March 3. Murphy faked his own death by making it appear that he had drowned off the Oregon coast to avoid facing legal consequences in one or more criminal cases in California and elsewhere.

Near midnight on April 28, 2004, Murphy’s girlfriend drove him to IndianBeach at EcolaState Park on the Oregon coast. He changed into a wetsuit, left his clothes and wallet in his girlfriend’s vehicle, and walked to the beach with his surfboard. Murphy threw his surfboard into the ocean then walked back to a car where friends waited to drive him back to their home. About 15 minutes later, Murphy’s girlfriend called 911 (as Murphy had previously directed her to do) to report that he had fallen off his surfboard into the ocean and had not reappeared.

The Coast Guard and marine police looked for Murphy for more than 10 hours. The Coast Guard’s efforts cost $94,151. In addition to jail time and a fine, Murphy faces a 3-year term of supervised release, a $100 statutory fee assessment, and restitution for all costs incurred by the Coast Guard.

Murphy pleaded guilty in federal court on Dec. 17, 2007, to communicating, or causing another to communicate, a false distress message to the Coast Guard that caused rescue vessels and personnel to respond to save lives and property when no help was needed.

On the same day — but in a different courtroom — Gregory Clayton Askew, 44, received his two-month sentence and was ordered to pay $60,502 in restitution to the Coast Guard. “We don’t always have the ability to bring people like this to justice, so when we do, from a Coast Guard perspective, it’s satisfying,” said CG Lt. Aaron Reiman. He was appointed Special Assistant U.S. Attorney by the U.S. Attorney for the district of Oregon to try the case for the Coast Guard.

Askew on Feb. 20, 2004, called 911 and begged for help. He said he had fallen off a trail into the Pacific Ocean south of Cannon Beach, Ore., and that he could not swim. Askew said he made the phony 911 to disappear and avoid dealing with his “problems.” He faced an indictment for assault, criminal mistreatment and kidnapping charges.

Local fire and public safety personnel and the Coast Guard began a search for him in and around the cliffs bordering the Pacific Ocean. For nearly six hours, two Coast Guard helicopters — each crewed by two pilots, a flight mechanic and a rescue swimmer — searched the cliffs and ocean near Neahkahie Mountain, north of Manzanita, Ore. The Coast Guard also launched a boat, but called off the search after an hour because of the danger due to the proximity of the surf zone and cliffs.