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Man Arrested for Making False Distress Signal Calls

By Kamika Dunlap on June 18, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Kurtis Thorsted made several distress signal calls claiming he was stranded at sea, when in fact he was safe inside his Salinas, California home.

Kurtis Thorsted , 53, made multiple "mayday" calls and broadcast more than four dozen of these hoax distress signals over six months in 2008, the Associated Press reports.

The false distress signal mayday calls cost the Coast Guard more than $102,000 for attempted searches, officials said.

The federal law concerning false distress calls makes it a federal felony for anyone to knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or cause the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed.

In addition, penalties include up to 6 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $5,000 civil penalty, and possible reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search.

In this case, Kurtis Thorsted was sentenced 30 months in federal prison. The court found that he broadcast 51 false distress messages over a six-month time period.

District Court Judge Ronald Whyte found that Thorsted's actions showed a conscious disregard for the lives of the officers who responded, that he was a public-safety risk, and that he deserved an aggravated sentence under federal sentencing guidelines.

He pleaded guilty to making the false mayday calls from his Salinas home and telling would-be rescuers he was stranded in an offshore kayak.

In 2004, was sentenced to two years in prison for the same crime.

According to a public defender memo, Thorsted is disabled from a traumatic brain injury and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

He was sentenced in federal court at San Jose, California.

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