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Gloucester woman pleads guilty for making false distress call

Ashley Strum-Smith of Gloucester, pleaded guilty to making a false distress call in U.S. District Court in Newport News on June 17. Strum-Smith, 29, faces a maximum penalty of six years in prison, a $250,000 fine and $82,764 in restitution when she is sentenced Oct. 20 in Norfolk.

According to a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Strum-Smith called in a false report of a ship taking on water in the Severn River on Aug. 13, 2012. Multiple rescue vehicles from the Abingdon, Gloucester, York and Mathews fire departments as well as the U.S. Coast Guard were dispatched to locate and aid the foundering vessel.

After a two-hour search costing over $82,000, it was determined the call was a hoax. Strum-Smith admitted to making the false report. The case was investigated by the Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service and the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Hurt. ...

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