Newport News man convicted for drunken fake distress call to Coast Guard

The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable transits toward the pier at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Sept. 27, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News man who drunkenly cried wolf out on the open water now faces up to 12 years in prison.

39-year-old Justin P. Stahmer was convicted by a federal jury on Monday for issuing a fake distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to court records and evidence presented at his trial, Stahmer made the call on June 20, 2016, while he was several miles northeast of Cape Henry.

Though he was alone on the boat and not in distress, Stahmer called “man overboard” by using the International Distress Frequency, VHF Channel 16.

In response, the Coast Guard deployed a 45-foot patrol boat, an 87-foot cutter and a search and rescue helicopter to look for Stahmer.

According to United States Attorney Dana J. Boente, Stahmer initially denied making the call, before saying he called the Coast Guard because he ran out of gas.

When Coast Guard Boarding Officers inspected his boat, Stahmer became belligerent, which led to an arrest for boating under the influence of alcohol.

During his transport back to shore, Stahmer started kicking and threatening one of the Coast Guard Boarding Officers, saying that he would “take him out” if he ever saw the officer again.

Stahmer faces a maximum of 12 years in prison, though sentences for federal crimes are typically lower than the maximum.

He awaits sentencing scheduled for Feb. 20, 2018.