Two years ago today, Coast Guard officials were looking for a man they believed had disappeared from his boat near Murrells Inlet. Investigators would later find dozens of pornographic photos of a girl in the man’s home.

On Thursday, that man, who had faked his own death, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

“I’m truly sorry your honor,” was all 60-year-old Harvey Cox of Florence had to say in court. He was sentenced for owning 46 pornographic photos of a girl as a preteen and young teen and for costing the Coast Guard thousands of dollars when he tried to stage his death.

District Judge David Norton sentenced Cox in a Charleston federal courtroom. In the front row, sitting at the opposite end of the courtroom, the victim, who will remain unidentified, sat with three other women and a victim’s advocate.

The young woman did not speak in court, but submitted a statement to the judge that will remain sealed.

Cox pleaded guilty to charges of sending a false distress call to the Coast Guard and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release.

Cox was also ordered to pay a restitution of $51,094 to the Coast Guard for the expenses they incurred when they launched a search for him, when he appeared to go missing off of his boat in January 2011.

Florence County sheriff’s investigators had spoken with Cox and had made plans to interview him about a unrelated allegation of criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

Cox disappeared a few days before the scheduled interview with investigators when a fisherman made a distress call to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources about an unoccupied boat in Murrells Inlet. Cox set his fishing boat adrift with his wallet and car keys inside. He left South Carolina in another vehicle, according to prosecutors.

Natural Resources officials requested a search-and-rescue mission from the Coast Guard, which ran Jan. 18-19, 2011. Investigators later found Cox in Silver Springs, Fla. They also found 46 Polaroid pornographic photos of the young girl in his home, according to prosecutors.

Cox did not plead guilty to making the pornographic photos, but the judge, for sentencing purposes, was still allowed to consider the allegations made by prosecutors that he took the photos.

Cox used a young girl’s ambition to model to manipulate her to pose for the photographs, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Phillips said. According to prosecutors, the victim said that Cox had threatened to do the same thing to her sister if she reported him. “I haven’t seen many defendants like this one,” Phillips said.

Phillips called his crimes “heinous” and the actions of a manipulative man. The victim told prosecutors she had been sexually abused by Cox over several years and he had taken the photos over a period of time, starting when she was 12, prosecutors said.

The unrelated child sex-abuse case remains pending in Florence County.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.