ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard racked up $311,000 in expenses searching for an Alaska man who faked his own death to avoid going to prison in a sexual assault case, according to federal prosecutors.
An indictment released Thursday charges Ryan Meganack, a commercial fisherman and boat captain from Port Graham, with conspiracy and "false distress" for planting evidence that he had been lost at sea while he hid out at a camp in the woods near the fishing village.
Meganack's girlfriend, Ivy Rose Rodriguez, 25, faces the same charges.
Port Graham is off the road system near the tip of the Kenai Peninsula about 140 miles southwest of Anchorage. Meganack was a halibut fishermen and the skipper for 14 years of the fishing boat Aires.
Meganack last year faced sexual assault charges and on Dec. 5 was scheduled to enter a guilty plea, which would have meant a prison sentence.
According to federal prosecutors, Meganack and Rodriguez hatched a plan to stage a boating accident.
Meganack built a makeshift camp where he could hide, prosecutors said. Around Nov. 29, he piloted his fishing boat to an island near Port Graham, abandoned a small fishing skiff, returned the larger boat to a lagoon off Port Graham and walked to his campsite.
Within a day, Rodriguez sent Facebook messages to Meganack's family reporting that Meganack had left after midnight in the skiff. She said Meganack had been drinking, that he had more alcohol with him, and that the outboard motor on the skiff "wasn't running right."
Family members called the Coast Guard. Helicopters from Kodiak launched despite falling snow, high wind and low visibility and found the skiff, prosecutors said. The cutter Naushon and an Alaska State Trooper patrol vessel searched by sea. Port Graham residents walked shorelines.
On Dec. 2, acting on a tip, troopers found Meganack at his campsite and arrested him for violating conditions of his release.
He was sentenced in January in the sexual assault case. He remains imprisoned at Goose Creek Correctional Facility in Wasilla. Court documents do not list an attorney in the new case.