Fake calls for aid lead to teenager
He used stolen radio equipment for phony maydays, police say.
By TAMARA EL-KHOURY, Times Staff Writer
Published August 25, 2007
LARGO - The teenager's mom became suspicious when she found radio equipment in his room. Equipment she hadn't bought.
She called Largo police. What she didn't know was that her son, a 15-year-old Clearwater High School student, was already wanted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Communications Commission.
Some kids go to football or band practice after school. This teen, whose name was not released by police Friday, is accused of using stolen marine radio equipment to place phony mayday calls to the Coast Guard, said Officer Sean Mahabir of the Largo Police Department.
The prank calls duped the Coast Guard into dispatching helicopters on at least four fruitless searches for a sinking boat or a drowning person between Sunday and Thursday.
Police say the teen made up locations for the calls, sending the helicopters to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and elsewhere. When asked his name during his final call on Thursday, he gave the name of a cousin who is serving in Iraq.
When Coast Guard officers called the cousin's mother to make sure her son was okay, she went into a frenzy, fearing her son had been killed, Mahabir said.
The false alarms are believed to have cost the guard hundreds of thousands of dollars, Mahabir estimated.
By Thursday, the Coast Guard and the FCC had caught on to the teen and were waiting for him to strike again so that they could track him, Mahabir said.
A Coast Guard spokesman declined to comment Friday because the case is an open investigation.
After receiving the call from the teen's mother, Mahabir went to the house and found two marine radios and four other communication devices. He said the teen admitted to stealing them from boats.
The teen, who hadn't been arrested Friday, could face two burglary charges, according to the Largo Police Department.
He told police his motive was simple, Mahabir said: "He said he needed something to do."
Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at 727 445-4181 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified August 24, 2007, 23:36:01]
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