A Florida man has been sentenced to three months in federal prison for shooting distress flares from a boat when there was no real emergency and triggering a U.S. Coast Guard rescue operation.
Justin Patrick Obert, 32, was sentenced Wednesday in Fort Myers federal court, according to court records. He must also pay $13,414.78 to cover costs associated with the rescue. He pleaded guilty in August to communicating a false distress message.
“Mariners on the water rely and count on Coast Guard assets and personnel to be ready and able to respond when they are in distress," Coast Guard Capt. Matt Thompson said in a statement. "Hoax calls can redirect critical rescue capabilities and put lives at risk in the dangerous maritime domain.”
Obert was on a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers Beach in September 2019 when he drunkenly discharged two red flares, according to court documents.
The Coast Guard, Fort Myers Beach Fire Rescue and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission all responded. Officials determined that Obert had discharged the flares despite not needing emergency assistance.