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Fake distress call leads to sailboat chase, arrest

July 22, 2013 at 4:43 PM

SAUSALITO, Calif., July 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast Guard said fake distress calls led to a low-speed sailboat chase and the arrest of the boat's owner in California.

Coast Guard spokesman Officer Mark Leahey said a patrol vessel heard the false distress calls near Sausalito at 4 p.m. Sunday and recognized the voice as John McCormick, who was known to the officers for previous hoax SOS calls, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.

The officers found McCormick's 45-foot sailboat, the Fortune, moored off Sausalito, but McCormick told them he would not allow them to board his vessel and started to sail away, Leahey said.

Leahey said three Coast Guard boats pursued the Fortune and he finally stopped about 2 1/2 miles off Ocean Beach.

"Because of the volatility of the situation, we came out armed," Leahey said. "When we came up alongside him, he told us to put the guns away."

Leahey said a "minor altercation" took place when officers boarded the boat and McCormick allegedly assaulted an officer prior to his arrest.

McCormick, whose age was not reported, was arrested on suspicion of making false distress calls and assaulting a federal law enforcement officer.

"The entire thing is very peculiar," Leahey said.

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