ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The U.S. Coast Guard is asking for the public's help in identifying hoax callers in southwest Florida.
Charles "Marty" Russell, the agency's agent-in-charge of the St. Petersburg office, said in a news release Friday that over the past year they've received a steady stream of radio calls along Florida's west coast. The calls were made on VHF-FM marine band channel 16, which is designated only for hailing and distress calls.
Russell says the agency immediately responds when it receives a distress call "putting our crews at risk, and risking the lives of boaters who may legitimately need our help."
Penalties for making a false distress call can include six years in prison, a $250,000 criminal fine, a $5,000 civil fine and restitution to the Coast Guard and other agencies.
The attached video was produced by the U.S. Coast Guard