By Associated Press - Sunday, March 26, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - The Coast Guard wants to find the source of what authorities say are hoax distress calls coming from Florida’s Gulf coast.

Coast Guard crews in St. Petersburg say they’ve regularly received fake calls for help along southwest Florida over the last year. Officials say most calls came from the Cape Coral area.

The Coast Guard says the calls were made on a radio channel designated for distress calls.

Charles “Marty” Russell, who leads the Coast Guard Investigative Service office in St. Petersburg, said hoax calls threaten the safety of responding crews and boaters who legitimately need help.

Penalties for making false distress calls include six years in prison and criminal fines.

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