ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — A Port Graham man was sentenced to two and a half years in prison Thursday for making a false report as part of an attempt to fake his death to avoid a prison term for a previous sexual assault case in 2016.
The U.S. Attorney's Office described the plot hatched by 35-year-old Ryan Riley Meganack, aka "Unga," of Port Graham to fake his death to avoid a lengthy prison for sexual assault in a scheme that could just as easily have come from a Coen brothers film.
The plot began as Meganack, a commercial fisherman and boat captain, was scheduled to plead guilty in December, 2016 to sexual assault of an incapacitated woman, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The guilty plea would be Meganack's second sex crime conviction, and he was expected to serve a significant prison sentence.
A criminal complaint says that on Nov. 29, 2016 — six days prior to his court date — that Meganack towed a seiner skiff with his fishing vessel to an island near Port Graham Bay. Prosecutors say Meganack staged a crash of his seiner on the rocks and "swamped" it to create the appearance that he was missing or dead after a boating accident.
Investigators later determined that Meganack then returned to Port Graham harbor to pick up his younger girlfriend and co-defendant, 28-year-old Ivy Rose Rodriguez, after which the two navigated up Port Graham Bay and secured Meganack's fishing vessel in a slough. The two then returned to Port Graham on foot — Rodriguez to Meganack's mother's home, and Meganack to a camouflaged campsite he had previously set up and stocked with supplies in woods near his mother's residence.
The following morning, Nov. 30, Rodriguez, continuing the plot, reported to Meganack's mother that "(1) she and Meganack had fought the night before; (2) Meganack had left in his skiff; (3) he was drunk; and (4) the skiff was not working well."
Subsequently, a search and rescue operation was launched by the U.S. Coast Guard to find Meganack over the course of three days during a weather pattern that brought snow, high winds, and low visibility in the area. Federal, state and local authorities, as well as volunteers from Port Graham and Nanwalek joined in the search effort.
"When searchers found Meganack’s skiff, the motor was down, its throttle was forward, the key was in the “on” position, and inside was a single rubber boot and an empty bottle of liquor," the U.S. Attorney's statement says.
Prosecutors say Meganack was in his makeshift camp the whole time.
Meanwhile, at some point during the search, Rodriguez began cooperating with authorities, revealing where Meganack was located and that he was armed.
Authorities arrested Meganack in his camp, where he was found to be in possession of a loaded semiautomatic rifle despite having been previously convicted of two felony offenses.
Meganack pleaded guilty to one count of making a false distress call and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
On Thursday, Meganack was sentenced to serve two and a half years in prison, with half of that to be served consecutively to his 25 year state prison sentence (with 10 years suspended), as well as fined $384,261.50 in restitution to the U.S. Coast Guard.