Instead of receiving a prison sentence Tuesday, a former Boca Raton financial advisor who tried to fake his death at sea nearly two years ago was ordered to pay the U.S. Coast Guard the $1 million it spent searching for him.
Calling Richard Ohrn’s bizarre plan to escape mounting personal problems an “aberration” in an otherwise upstanding life, U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg said there was no reason to put the 46-year-old U.S. Navy veteran behind bars.
“There’s no indication you don’t respect the law,” Rosenberg said while placing Ohrn on probation for one year. “You’re no threat to society.”
“It was a (reaction to a) personal crisis that, quite frankly, we all have,” she concluded.
Rosenberg’s decision was supported by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy McCall. He said Ohrn has cooperated with government agents since he was indicted by a grand jury after he emerged from hiding in April 2015. By pleading guilty in August to a felony charge of making a false distress call to the Coast Guard, Ohrn has accepted responsibility for the burden he placed on the agency, which is “stretched thin” and has better things to do than search for phantoms, McCall said.
As part of the plea deal, Ohrn and his wife agreed to sell their 5,000-square-foot house off Yamato Road in suburban Boca Raton, which is valued at $550,000. Orhn will use half of proceeds to partially reimburse the federal agency, McCall said.
Besides that, Ohrn was ordered to pay $400 a month.
The Coast Guard launched a nearly three-day search by sea and air after a boater discovered an empty blood-stained vessel adrift 6 miles south of the Boynton Beach Inlet and 2 miles from shore.
Later, Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies said they discovered that Ohrn had rented the watercraft in Broward County and used an inflatable boat to return to shore. Once on land, he climbed into a recently-purchased truck and drove to Albany, Ga., where he hid out for two weeks, deputies said.
Pointing to a December 2014 decision by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation to yank Ohrn’s stockbroker’s license after national security regulators accused him of forging client signatures and emptying $15,000 from the accounts of two elderly customers, officials said it appeared Ohrn hatched the plan as a way to escape financial problems.
His attorney, Tama Beth Kudman, disputed the claims made by financial regulators. While Ohrn had recently lost his job at a bank, she said his financial woes were only partially responsible for his breakdown.
One of his two sons was struggling with drug addiction, spinning in and out of rehab, she said. His wife was diagnosed with life-threatening health problems that still haunt her today. The victim of horrific abuse as a child, Ohrn was ill-equipped to deal with stress of being unable to save his loved ones from financial, medical or psychological ruin, Kudman said.
“All of this came to a head,” she said. “Mr. Ohrn didn’t have the emotional tools to deal with what was happening at home.”
While he contemplated suicide in Georgia, he ultimately decided to return to rebuild his fractured life, Kudman said.
In rejecting federal sentencing guidelines, which called for a maximum 18-month prison term, Rosenberg referred to a sealed report that detailed the abuse Ohrn endured as a youngster. “You are a very good person who achieved great success and have much to be proud of despite a very debilitating childhood that many people may not have found a way out of,” she told Ohrn.
Unable to work in the financial sector as a result of his conviction, Ohrn plans to start a pest control business with his wife, Kudman said.
Rosenberg wished Ohrn well after ordering him to continue to receive mental health treatment. “Hopefully,” she said, “the worst is behind you.”