Ohio Man Must Pay $489,000 For Fake
Distress Report: Court
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[April 23, 2014]
By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) — An Ohio man whose
hoax distress call triggered a massive U.S. Coast Guard search and
rescue mission on Lake Erie must pay $489,000 in restitution, a U.S.
appeals court said Tuesday.
Danik Kumar, a licensed pilot, told authorities in March 2012 he
saw what he thought was a distress flare coming up from a boat as he
flew over Lake Erie near Cleveland.
When asked by Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport to take a
closer look, Kumar did not see a vessel, but reported seeing more
flares and a fishing boat with four people onboard wearing life
jackets and active strobe lights, the opinion said.
The 21-hour search included a 140-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutter,
three smaller rescue boats, a rescue helicopter and a Canadian CC130
Hercules airplane. A month later, the then 19-year-old freshman at
Bowling Green State University admitted to making a false report.
Kumar pleaded guilty to making a false distress call. A federal
judge sentenced Kumar to serve three months in prison and pay
restitution of $277,000 to the U.S. Coast Guard and $212,000 to the
Canadian Armed Forces.
His attorneys had argued that Kumar was liable only for the search's
direct costs to the U.S. Coast Guard, estimated by a defense expert
at $118,000, and no Canadian Armed Forces costs.
A panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld
the federal judge's rulings. One judge dissented in part, finding
she would have ordered the district court to reduce the "inflated
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Kumar has served his prison term, dropped out of school and may file
another appeal, attorney Edmund Searby said Tuesday.
"Like every other litigant, the government should be limited to
actual losses," Searby said. "They are going to make him pay it off
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; editing by David Bailey, Bernard Orr)
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