top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Three plead guilty to making false distress signal to Coast Guard

By The Star Staff

Three defendants have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to communicate a false distress signal and making false statements in a U.S. Coast Guard hoax call case.

According to a June 28, 2022 court filing, Harold Carrión Butter, while trying to evade local authorities regarding a domestic violence case, purposefully hid himself in an attempt to make it seem like he was swept out to sea at La Poza Del Obispo in Arecibo.

Carrión Butter called his mother, Justinita Butter, who, after several phone conversations with her son, called local 9-1-1 and falsely reported that her son had not been answering his phone and was missing from the beach at Poza Del Obispo. Her 9-1-1 call was transferred to United States Coast Guard (USCG) Sector San Juan, which immediately began to coordinate a search and rescue operation for Carrión Butter. Throughout that night and the following two days, through multiple phone calls with USCG officers, Justinita Butter and Miriam Delgado Serrano made multiple false claims that Carrión Butter did not have a phone, must have been swept out to sea, and that there was no other place he could be. All the claims were made while they were both in continuous and surreptitious communication with Carrión Butter through multiple phone calls and text messages.

On July 1, 2022, Carrion Butter was discovered by local Puerto Rico police at a location near his family home. The USCG subsequently ended its search and rescue operation, after having diverted multiple ships, boats and aircraft from other potential search and rescue missions and criminal-interdictions, and after having expended over $1 million in assets and resources in the search.

Carrión Butter pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment, conspiracy to communicate a false distress signal. He was sentenced in December 2023 to time served -- approximately 18 months of imprisonment. He is currently incarcerated at the state level and facing other charges.

Justinita Butter, who was scheduled for trial beginning next Monday, pleaded guilty on Jan. 26 to count four, making a false statement. Specifically, when USCG personnel were speaking on the phone with Butter on the morning of June 29, 2022, they asked her for Carrión Butter’s phone number. She told USCG personnel that Carrión Butter didn’t have a phone and did not provide his number. Sentencing is scheduled for April 26.

Delgado Serrano also pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 1. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

“Federal, state and local authorities take all threat-to-life matters very seriously,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “However, when individuals make false reports to law enforcement, endangering first responders, other citizens, and wasting resources, they will be prosecuted and held accountable for their criminal conduct.”

23 views0 comments


bottom of page