NORFOLK, Va. – A federal jury convicted a Newport News man today for making a false distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Justin P. Stahmer, 39, made a false distress call on June 20, 2016, while several miles northeast of Cape Henry. Stahmer used the International Distress Frequency, VHF Channel 16, to call “man overboard,” despite being alone on his boat and knowing no one had fallen in the water. For over 45 minutes the Coast Guard sought more information from Stahmer over the radio and launched a full search for a person in the water, including deploying a 45-foot patrol boat, an 87-foot cutter, and a search and rescue helicopter. Once he was found, Stahmer initially denied making any distress call to the Coast Guard and then indicated he called the Coast Guard because he ran out of gas. As the Coast Guard Boarding Officers inspected Stahmer’s vessel, he became belligerent and angry. Ultimately, the Virginia Marine Resource Commission Police arrived and arrested Stahmer for boating under the influence of alcohol. While being transported back to shore, Stahmer began to kick and threaten one of the Coast Guard Boarding Officers, stating that Stahmer would “take him out” if he ever saw the Boarding Officer again.
Stahmer faces a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison when sentenced on Feb. 20, 2018. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.