Port Graham man fakes death, runs up $384K rescue tab with Coast Guard
A Port Graham man who faked his death nearly two years ago to avoid jail time for sexual assault was sentenced Thursday for costing the U.S. Coast Guard $384,000 in unnecessary lifesaving resources.
U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason sentenced 35-year-old Ryan Riley Meganack, aka: “Unga” to serve two-and-a-half years in prison with 15 months to be served consecutively to state sentence.
He pleaded guilty to false distress and felon in possession of a firearm, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney for Alaska Bryan Schroder’s office.
The long-time commercial fisherman and boat captain was scheduled to plead guilty to sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman in December 2016, the release said.
"Meganack was a second-time sex offender and faced many years in prison for that crime," Schroder's office wrote in a news release. "To avoid prison, Meganack hatched a plan to fake his own death, which involved him causing a false report of distress to the U.S. Coast Guard." Meganack planned to flee Alaska when the search for him proved unsuccessful and was suspended."
Meganack talked his younger girlfriend, Ivy Rose Rodriguez, now age 28, into helping him carry off the hoax to flee Alaska.
On Nov. 29, 2016, Meganack reportedly docked his fishing boat, with his seiner skiff in tow near Port Graham Bay where he staged his death, the release said.
Afterward, he picked up his girlfriend and went to his mother's house where he made a makeshift campsite which was stocked with supplies.
According to the release, Meganack then gave Rodriguez instructions on what to tell his mother:
In the early morning hours of Nov. 30, 2016, Rodriguez – per Meganack’s instructions – reported to Meganack’s mother that: (1) she and Meganack had fought the night before; (2) Meganack had left in his skiff; (3) he was drunk; and (4) the skiff was not working well.
Over the next few days, search efforts were initiated which included federal, state and local authorities, as well Port Graham and Nanwalek residents.
"Helicopters from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, and Coast Guard command center personnel participated in the operation," the U.S. Attorney's office wrote. "The Coast Guard alone expended approximately $384,261.50 in resources during the search for Meganack. When searchers found Meganack’s skiff, the motor was down, its throttle was forward, the key was in the “on” position, and inside was a single rubber boot and an empty bottle of liquor."
According to court records, Rodriguez began to feel bad after seeing the distress it was causing everyone and confessed what really happened to Meganack's mother.
"Defendant’s mother told a local tribal leader, who in turn alerted the Alaska State Troopers that Defendant might be hiding out in Port Graham," court documents said.
Rodriguez cooperated with authorities and told them where her boyfriend was at and that he was armed. He was later found on Dec. 2, 2016, at the makeshift site located about 400 feet from his mother's house.
"In sentencing Meganack, Judge Gleason underscored the seriousness of Meganack’s false distress offense, which she recognized had “an enormous impact” on the Coast Guard and the Port Graham community and “put so many at risk” needlessly," the release said. "The judge emphasized the need to send a message that those who make false distress calls to the U.S. Coast Guard will face criminal penalties."
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