Kumar pleaded guilty earlier this year in U.S. Northern District Court to one count of making false distress calls. He was also sentenced to 250 hours of community service and three years of supervised release.
According to a statement from Dettelbach’s office, Kumar took off in a Cessna single-engine plane on March 14, 2012, for a solo flight from Burke Lakefront Airport to Bowling Green State University. About 30 minutes into the flight, he called the Cleveland-Hopkins Airport control tower and reported seeing a vessel “launching up flares.”
When he was asked for additional details about the vessel in distress, Kumar told the control tower “a 25-foot fishing vessel I guess you could say. Everyone had a life jacket with a strobe light. I counted four of them,” according to Dettelbach’s office, citing court records.
The control tower notified the Coast Guard, which dispatched two vessels. The Coast Guard cutter Thunder Bay searched for 21 hours, with multiple boat crews from the Coast Guard station in Lorain searching for about 16 hours.
Rescue helicopters from the Coast Guard’s Detroit station then joined in, as did a Canadian Coast Guard airplane from Trenton, Ontario, according to Dettelbach’s office.
More than a month later, Kumar admitted he never saw flares or a boat in distress, and there were never any people in need of help. He also said that when he landed at Bowling Green he knew rescue crews were searching with full force but he chose not to report the truth, according to Dettelbach’s office.
When reached by phone on Monday, Kumar initially hung up on a Register reporter. When the reporter called back, Kumar said, “Just say I couldn’t be reached for comment.”
The U.S. Coast Guard handled the investigation.