A woman accused of providing false information about a missing hiker in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park has been banned from the park for five years, according to officials.
Heather Mycoskie, 40, "knowingly provided false information and a false report in the search for missing hiker Cian McLaughlin," the National Park Service said in a statement released Thursday.
McLaughlin was last seen June 8, 2021, according to a missing person flyer.
Mycoskie told authorities she had seen McLaughlin that afternoon or early evening, according to the park service's statement. She said he was hiking toward a rock that was his favorite spot to jump into water.
"Mycoskie provided a very detailed description of McLaughlin and stated she had a discussion with him in which he shared where he lived, where he was from, and his place of employment," the statement said. "The subsequent investigation revealed Mycoskie never saw anyone matching McLaughlin’s description on June 8, 2021, in Grand Teton National Park."
Other potential sightings of McLaughlin were in a different part of the park, near Delta Lake, which he had searched on the internet before his hike.
Witnesses told investigators that Mycoskie fabricated her story to make sure search efforts for McLaughlin continued. The relationship between Mycoskie and McLaughlin is unclear.
Mycoskie’s false report led to about 532 hours of search time directed in the wrong place, according to the park service's statement. "This wasted valuable time that could have been focused on searching areas of higher probability and it cost the Federal Government approximately $17,600," the agency said.
Mycoskie was ordered to pay that amount to the Department of Treasury as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, according to park officials.
Authorities are still searching for McLaughlin. Investigators have asked the public to report if they see the items he had with him on his hike: a red Apple watch, a red iPhone 12 mini, gold wire-rimmed sunglasses, a silver U-shaped pendant and a white T-shirt.