When he was 19, Danik Kumar made a distress call that resulted in an unnecessary 21-hour, 70-person search on Lake Erie. The Ohio man, now 21, told emergency workers that, while flying a small plane, he'd spotted four people on a boat sending out flares. Seems that wasn't quite the case: The college freshman later told investigators the boat was a fiction, though he thought he had seen one flare. Now he'll have to pay $489,000 in restitution to the US and Canadian Coast Guards; he was also sentenced to three months in prison, the AP reports.
Why not tell the truth? Kumar kept going with the more elaborate story because he worried he'd sound stupid otherwise, thus losing his shot at working for the Coast Guard, the AP reports. He pleaded guilty to a false call. A federal appeals court upheld the sentence: It may be "an onerous burden on the shoulders of a young man," but it's necessary to help prevent something like this from happening again."I'm not defending what he did, but it's an awful large penalty to pay," says Kumar's lawyer, who's considering a further appeal. "He's never going to recover—on some level—from this." He has already served his jail time and quit school, his lawyer says, via Reuters. (Read more Danik Kumar stories.)