For those who don't know, making fake and phony distress calls over the radio is a crime. In fact, it's a very serious crime.

When someone makes a fake distress call, especially from a vessel to the United States Coast Guard, it tends to trigger a response, and an expensive one at that.

That's exactly what officials say happened on Friday in the area of Casco Bay in Portland.

According to an article published by WGME 13, officials with the United States Coast Guard say that an unidentified person from an unidentified location got on VHF channel 16, a channel commonly used to communicate with other aquatic vessels and to call for help, and sent out a distress message requesting help.

Following the calls for help, which at the time crews didn't realize they were fake, the United States Coast Guard as well as several other area agencies, took to the seas and the skies using boats and helicopters to search the area of Casco Bay, the news station reported.

The search for a vessel in distress reportedly continued for multiple hours before officials decided to call off the search, WGME reported on Monday. Shortly after the large search and rescue operation was called off, it was determined that the calls for help were in fact a hoax.

WGME says that the U.S. Coast Guard is now seeking the public's help in identifying who is responsible for the massive emergency response. Officials say they believe that the calls for help originated in the area of Long Island which is in the Casco Bay region, according to the news station.

If the person who made the calls is identified, charged and convicted, they could face very steep fines and even jail time.

According to the United States Coast Guard News, in 2015, a similar incident took place and the person was charged a $15,000 fine, ordered to serve a year in prison and three years of supervised probation.

WGME went on to say,

If you recognize this voice or have information regarding these incidents, please contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service or through the CGIS TIPS mobile app available in the App store and Google Play.

You can read more on the false information and hoaxes law here.

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