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FCC Levies $25K Fines Against California Pirates

Two churches were implicated as transmission sites for unlicensed stations

FCC Enforcement Bureau staff sometimes are obliged to engage in games of cat and mouse that last for years. And even though the Enforcement Bureau’s staff has slimmed down, the agents still must pursue and warn repeat offenders. Such was the case in two separate California piracy cases that were concluded recently.

Even churches and pastors are not exempt from the law, as Iglesia el Remanente Fraternidad Elim Inc. and Belarmino Lara of Arleta, Calif., learned recently.

Over the course of three years — beginning July 16, 2013 — the Enforcement Bureau’s Los Angeles Field Office issued multiple enforcement actions and has met with Lara and his adult children to explain that operating the unlicensed FM broadcast station on 93.7 MHz was in violation and continued unlicensed operation could result in significant penalties. Yet, the station continued to transmit on 93.7 MHz from the transmission site, in violation of Section 301 of the act, according to the FCC’s account.

The proceeding said that “joint and several liability is appropriate here in light of the fact that, although Lara has acknowledged operating the unlicensed station located at his home, the station appears to be operated as part of Iglesia el Remanente’s religious mission and is featured prominently on the church’s website” and the pirate station also shares an address with the church. Therefore, the commission found that both Lara and his church are apparently liable to pay a $25,000 fine; they must respond within 30 days or pay the fine.

Over the course of two years, the Los Angeles Field Office also pursued an unlicensed FM broadcast station that was operating on 95.1 MHz in Panorama City, Calif. On March 6, 2015, an agent from the Los Angeles Office identified the source of RF transmissions on the frequency 95.1 MHz as an FM antenna mounted on a guyed structure located on the roof of the Ministerio Internacional Luz A Las Naciones church in Panorama City.

The first complaint was issued On Jan. 8, 2015, but it took some time before the station operator was identified as Nelson Quintanilla, a tenant of Calliopi Ash Trust, which owned the transmission site.

Because the commission warned Quintanilla both verbally and in writing that unlicensed operations on 95.1 MHz from the transmission site were unlawful and was ignored in all cases, FCC Enforcement Bureau Region Three Regional Director Lark Hadley determined that Quintanilla is apparently liable for a forfeiture of $25,000. He has 30 days to respond or pay the fine.