Investigators with the U.S. Coast Guard are still determining whether charges will be filed against a North Carolina couple accused of filing a false police report to avoid a scheduled court appearance, said Lauren Jorgensen.
It cost the Coast Guard $42,465.05 to search for Amy Lynette Robinson who was reported missing by her husband Paul David Arrington July 5.
Jorgensen, a public affairs specialist with the Coast Guard, said there are several options for the agency and all involve a felony charge.
“It is a felony for anyone to knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or cause the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed,” she said.
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If charges are filed and Robinson or Arrington is convicted, penalties could include up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $5,000 civil penalty, and the possible reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search.
North Myrtle Beach officials are still tallying a total cost and determining whether the city will seek to recoup fees and what route it may take to do so. Early estimates released last week topped $50,000, including the Coast Guards’ portion.
Robinson, 42, is being held on $500,000 bond in a Mecklenburg County, N.C., jail on charges of forgery of instrument, uttering forged instrument, four counts of obtain property under false pretense and three counts of identity theft, according to jail records. All the charges are felonies.
Police say she was erroneously reported missing July 5 to avoid a scheduled court appearance in North Carolina.
Paul Arrington, 45, was booked and released in North Myrtle Beach on Thursday on $5,500 bond. He is charged with criminal conspiracy and making a false complaint to a law enforcement officer in connection with telling authorities July 5 that he thought his wife had drowned.
North Myrtle Beach police have a warrant for Robinson charging her with criminal conspiracy, but it is unclear when she may return to the city to face the charge.
According to the North Myrtle Beach police report, Arrington told a lifeguard that he was on the beach with her when she got up from their beach towel and tapped him on the leg and said she was going into the ocean. Arrington said he told his wife he would join her in the water in a minute, he watched her walk into waist deep water and then he turned over.
About 15-20 minutes later, Arrington said he got up and saw a woman in the water, who he thought was his wife, but it was not, according to the report. He said he then reported Robinson missing to the lifeguard.
Lifeguards broadcast a description of the woman over the radio channel and they began to search for her, according to the report. The lifeguards contacted police and they began a water search that included officers from Horry County, North Myrtle Beach, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Coast Guard.
Officers picked up Arrington and drove him around to search for his wife, according to the report. Other officers searched the water on watercraft.
Robinson’s criminal record dates to 1992 with charges mostly in Union, Gaston and Mecklenburg counties in North Carolina. Among the charges: credit card theft; larceny; and financial card fraud.
Robinson served more than two years in prison for identity theft and fraud, according to public records. She was released in 2008.