Coast Guard reemphasizes severity of false distress calls after sentencing of Port Graham, Alaska man

When the search and rescue alarm goes off, the Coast Guard takes it very seriously. Our responders know that every moment counts in an emergency, and we respond as quickly as possible. Balancing safety with a rapid response time is always the goal, but each time our rescuers go out on a search, they are putting themselves in danger to help others.


The Coast Guard is reemphasizing the severity of false distress calls after U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced Nov. 8, that a Port Graham resident has been sentenced to federal prison for crimes related to making a false distress call.


Ryan Riley Meganack, aka: “Unga,” 35, of Port Graham, Alaska, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason to serve 2.5 years in prison, with 15 months to be served consecutively to his 25 year (10 years suspended) state prison sentence in State of Alaska v. Meganack, 3AN-15-00683CR, following his guilty pleas to one count of false distress and one count of felon in possession of a firearm.


Meganack was also ordered to pay $384,261.50 in restitution to the U.S. Coast Guard.


Federal, state and local authorities, as well as Port Graham and Nanwalek residents, participated in the search for Meganack. Helicopters from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, and Coast Guard command center personnel participated in the operation. The Coast Guard alone expended approximately $384,261.50 in resources during the search for Meganack.


“False distress calls waste valuable time and resources,” said Cmdr. Christopher Coutu, staff judge advocate for the 17th Coast Guard District. “They endanger folks who might actually need our help by sending our resources elsewhere, and they place our responding personnel in danger. Because the impact of these hoax calls is so great, we fully investigate each instance vigorously and hold people accountable as appropriate.”


The Coast Guard reminds the public that making a false distress call to the Coast Guard is a crime punishable by up to 6 years in prison; a $250,000 criminal fine, a $5,000 civil fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for operating costs incurred.