Veteran Pleads Guilty to False Distress Signal Charge
On Monday, a Navy veteran pled guilty to faking his own death at sea and initiating an expensive, fruitless SAR effort.
Richard Windsor Ohrn, 46, admitted that he had rented a small SeaRay speedboat, motored out off of Lake Forest Inlet, Florida, then abandoned the watercraft into an inflatable dinghy and returned to shore. He then drove to Albany, Georgia, where he stayed for two weeks in an apartment rented under his nephew's name.
After Ohrn fled, the Palm Beach County Sheriffs found the speedboat with "several patches of blood aboard" and a pair of broken eyeglasses. The sheriffs contacted the Coast Guard and initiated a three-day search for Ohrn, which cost the service more than $1 million.
The maximum penalty for the single charge of causing the Coast Guard to "attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed" is a sentence of up to six years imprisonment, plus a fine of as much as $250,000. In addition, Ohrn owes restitution to the Coast Guard in the amount of $1,000,000, and he agreed that he will help prosecutors identify his assets in order to make good on the repayment. Ohrn will be required to sell his home in Boca Raton, Florida and pay the proceeds to the government by December 31; The property is currently listed for sale with an asking price of $695,000.
In return for his cooperation, the prosecutors will request a reduction in sentence. Sentencing is scheduled for late October.
Ohrn, a former financial advisor, has also been accused of faking his clients' signatures in order to withdraw money from their accounts. Florida financial regulators have barred him from brokerage activities. Ohrn has not been charged in relation to the embezzlement allegations, but he has faced several civil suits, and he told sheriffs' deputies that he faked his own death in order to escape his legal problems. In a court filing, his wife described his disappearance as the result of a "nervous breakdown."