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FCC Cuts One Pirate Payment, Levies $15,000 Fine on Another

AT&T Mobility interference complaint leads agents to unauthorized Miami rooftop transmissions

One pirate managed to get his fine reduced while another faces a $15,000 penalty.

Eleuterio Lebron in Guayama, Puerto Rico was able to convince the FCC to reduce his fine for operating a pirate station from $15,000 to $1,500.

Lebron claimed in September 2011 he was not trying to break the law when he operated an unauthorized station on 88.5 MHz; he thought he could use his transmitter legally without a license.

In fact, Lebron told the commission the Ramsey PX50 transmitter he bought was marketed as being Part 15-compliant. The FCC disagreed with his interpretation of Ramsey’s marketing, saying Part 15 compliance wasn’t mentioned.

The commission said this week Lebron’s ignorance of the rules doesn’t justify or mitigate the violation and that he had been warned before that the transmissions were illegal.

However the agency did reduce the penalty based on documentation backing up Lebron’s claim that he couldn’t pay the original $15,000 penalty. But the commission warned Lebron it has refused those claims in cases that are repeated or especially egregious and told him future violations may result in higher fines in the future that may not be reduced based on his financial circumstances. Payment is due within 30 days.

In another pirate case decided this week, the commission fined Jeffrey Darius $15,000 for operating an unauthorized station on 88.7 MHz in Miami.

AT&T Mobility complained about interference, leading Enforcement Bureau agents to investigate.

They traced the transmissions to a building rooftop in Miami and found antennas “typically used by unlicensed broadcasters” according to the agency’s findings. The agents met with the building owner, who said Darius was the rooftop suite tenant and that he would deliver the FCC’s Notice of Unlicensed Operations to Darius.

Later that September 2011, the agents continued to hear transmissions and a voice identifying the station as “88.7 Da Blaze FM.” The station’s phone number announced on-air matched the number the building owner gave as that of Darius.

Agents continued to hear the transmissions in November and December of 2011. They met with the building owner again and had him move the transmitting gear — an FM power amplifier, an FM exciter and an antenna — to a storage room. The FCC agents interviewed Darius and said he admitted the gear was his and that he operated the station with a partner.

Darius also said he knew he was supposed to have a license, according to the agency. He has 30 days to appeal or pay the fine.