Coast Guard search for Lee Price's body cost $173,000 - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Missing banker's suicide hoax cost Coast Guard $173,000

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Key West, FL -

The U.S. Coast Guard says that a search launched in 2012 for a Georgia banker accused of fraud cost them more than $173,000.

Lee Price, 47, was reported missing by his family in June 2012. A family member reported him missing to the Coast Guard after they received a letter they believed to be a suicide note from Price.

In the letter, Price said he planned to jump off the Key West Express Ferry in the area of Naples.

The Coast Guard launched an HC-130 Hercules aircraft from a station in Clearwater, FL, and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Air Station Miami to search for Price from Fort Meyers to Key West.

The Coast Guard searched in the area, but suspended the case when his body was not found.

The hoax put Coast Guard members unnecessarily in harm's way, according to a Coast Guard news release. The search also cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

The cost of operating a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft is $17,866 per hour and the cost of operating an HC-144 Ocean Sentry Aircraft is $15,345 per hour, according to the Coast Guard. 

Making a false distress call is a felony that carries up to six years in prison, a $5,000 civil fine, a $250,000 criminal fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard.

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