A Florence man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for intentionally causing the United States Coast Guard to conduct a search and rescue operation when no help was actually needed. After any potential release from jail, 60-year-old Harvey Cox is to be subject to supervision for life and has to pay over $51,000 to the Coast Guard for the cost of the search. Prior to last week’s sentencing, US Attorney William Nettles stated that Cox pled guilty to causing the problems last March 19th.
It seems that in January 2011, state authorities in Florence and Marlboro Counties were investigating Cox for alleged sexual assault on a minor. Authorities contacted Cox and scheduled a meeting with him on January 19, 2011. However, late on January 17, 2011, Cox set his fishing boat adrift with his wallet and car keys inside. He then left his truck at the boat landing in Murrell’s Inlet, took a cab to his home, and then left South Carolina in another vehicle. Early on the morning of January 18, 2011, South Carolina DNR received a distress call from fishermen who found the empty boat adrift. DNR notified the U.S. Coast Guard and both agencies commenced a search for a missing boater. The search, which involved marine sweeps via boats and helicopter, lasted ten hours before it was finally called off.
Due to the timing of Cox’s disappearance after he had been contacted by police, authorities further investigated and discovered continued activity on Cox’s phone after January 18th. Authorities also learned about Cox’s cab ride. At that time, the U.S. Marshal Service, with assistance from state authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, began a fugitive investigation to locate Cox and he was arrested in Silver Springs, Florida on March 3, 2011. During the investigation to locate and arrest Cox, authorities obtained Polaroid photographs of a minor victim depicting sexually explicit conduct which were hidden in Cox’s residence. Authorities also located, at both Cox’s business and his home, two Polaroid cameras and bedding that was present in the photographs. Further, authorities identified and located the victim in the photographs. The victim (who was no longer a minor) stated that Cox had sexually abused the victim over several years and he had taken the photographs over a period of time beginning when the victim was approximately 12 years old. Cox had written dates on some of the photographs which further corroborated the age of the victim at the time the photographs were taken.
US Attorney Nettles stated that the case was investigated by agents of the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the United States Marshal Service, the United States Secret Service, the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Assistant United States Attorney Peter Phillips of the Charleston office handled the prosecution.