Suspect in Ferry Suicide Hoax Arrested in Georgia
A man suspected of faking his own death and costing the Coast Guard more than $173,000 was arrested Tuesday near Brunswick, Ga.
Georgia law enforcement authorities say Aubrey Lee Price, 47, was pulled over by police in Brunswick for having illegally tinted windows on his vehicle. Price, who is a former Valdosta, Ga. banker, is also accused of wire and security fraud.
Price was reported missing by his family on June 18, 2012. A family member in Georgia reported the missing man to the U.S. Coast Guard after they had received a certified letter believed to be a suicide note from Price. The letter stated Price intended to jump off the Key West Express Ferry in the vicinity of Naples, Fla.
Price’s disappearance prompted the Coast Guard to launch a HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, Fla. and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Air Station Miami to search from Fort Meyers to Key West. Coast Guard crews searched from Fort Myers to Key West but suspended the case when his body was not found.
The hoax placed rescuers unnecessarily in harm's way and cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. The cost of operating a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft is $17,866 per hour and the cost of operating an HC-144 Ocean Sentry Aircraft is $15,354 per hour.
Creating a hoax or making a false distress call is a felony punishable by law. The maximum penalty for making a false distress call is six years in prison, a $5,000 civil fine, a $250,000 criminal fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard.