CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to staging his wife's disappearance in South Carolina in order to help her avoid facing criminal charges in their home state, federal prosecutors said.
Paul David Arrington, 46, of Lowell, North Carolina, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a charge of conspiracy to communicate a false distress signal, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said in a statement.
The defendant's wife, Amy Lynette Arrington, 44, pleaded guilty to the same charge in June. She was sentenced in federal court in Florence, South Carolina, on Tuesday to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $48,000 in restitution.
Prosecutors said the couple drove on July 5, 2014, from Gastonia, North Carolina, to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where Amy Arrington briefly went into the ocean before leaving the beach. She then headed to Florida as part of the couple's plan for her to avoid prosecution for state charges including identity theft and forgery, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Paul Arrington falsely reported to a lifeguard that his wife was missing, prosecutors said. Law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard searched for her before eventually detecting the fraud.
Paul Arrington faces up to five years in prison and will be sentenced at a later date, prosecutors said.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Will Dunham)