Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

See, what happened was…

By: Heath Hamacher//June 20, 2016

See, what happened was…

By: Heath Hamacher//June 20, 2016

Alcohol and boating don’t mix, I’ve heard it said. That’s especially true when you’re in a stolen boat and the best story you can come up with to tell authorities after drifting into a restricted area is that you tossed the boat’s owner overboard.

Neither local police nor Coast Guard personnel found any of the shenanigans of 44-year-old Bryan Serafini amusing. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently demonstrated how funny it found Serafini’s actions, upholding a nearly $118,000 restitution order meted out—along with a 14-month prison sentence—by a district court judge.

On May 11, 2014, Newport News police and officers with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission responded to a report that an unauthorized vessel had drifted into a local shipyard, where they found a tipsy Serafini lounging in a 24-foot Shamrock motor boat. He claimed that he had helped the owner cast off from shore but had to throw the man into the water when they began fighting.

The Coast Guard and other agencies immediately began an all-out search for this individual but soon determined that the boat had been stolen and the owner was not actually adrift.

The search was eventually called off, but not before the Coast Guard tallied a $117,913 bill that needed to be paid.

Serafini pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly and willingly communicating a false distress message and was released from the federal pokey just last month.

Serafini appealed his pecuniary punishment, claiming that the cost provision of the applicable federal law allows the Coast Guard to seek only civil redress in this case.

The court disagreed, finding that the section was designed to hold individuals “liable” in either criminal or civil proceedings for “all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the individual’s action.”

In the unanimous opinion, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote that the law reflects the view that essential resources should not be “squandered at the whim of pranksters” or those intentionally trying to divert the Coast Guard’s attention “from their own nefarious activities.”

Congress also desires, Wilkinson wrote, to avoid needlessly risking lives on wild goose chases.

A year in prison and a six-figure fine? That’s sending a message.

In fact, I’d say that’s sending a signal as strong as any other the Coast Guard has in its repertoire.

Business Law

See all Business Law News


See all Commentary


How Is My Site?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...