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Feds Confiscate Gear From Alleged NYC Radio Pirate

Action against "Rumba FM" came in early April

The Federal Communications Commission continues to highlight its actions against illegal radio operations, now reporting that it participated in the seizure of equipment last month from an alleged pirate in Manhattan.

Even as broadcasters gathered in Las Vegas and were hearing from several of the commissioners about regulatory issues including pirate enforcement, FCC agents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service seized transmission equipment, armed with a court order.

They confiscated equipment operated by a station identified as Rumba FM. The commission said the operators were broadcasting on 95.3 FM from a high-rise apartment building. They confiscated equipment at a location on St. Nicholas Avenue. The commission said it had issued multiple earlier warnings in this case. No arrests or names were reported in the announcement.

“Pirate radio stations are illegal, as they operate without an FCC license, and cause real harm,” said Rosemary Harold, chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau in a release Tuesday announcing the action. “These stations can cause interference to legitimate, licensed broadcasters and can prevent those broadcasters from delivering critical public-safety information to listeners.

“We are pursuing multiple legal routes to stop pirate broadcasters and this seizure action in Manhattan is one of them,” Harold said.

[Related: “Pirate Radio Bill Formally Introduced”]

She echoed recent comments by Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly in particular that recent enforcement is making a difference, resulting in unlawful broadcasts going off the air, seizure of equipment and proposed fines against operators and property owners who actively aid unlawful operations.

In March, the FCC conducted the first highly publicized equipment seizure of the year against operators outside Boston. As we reported at the time, U.S. Marshals Service and Boston Police Department seized equipment from two alleged pirate stations that the commission said had long been operating without a license. “Big City” and “B87.7 FM” around Dorchester, Mass.

This time around, the FCC clarified which role the federal entities take in a seizure such as this. Once the FCC has built a case against a station, it said, the matter is referred to the relevant U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is responsible for filing the case and obtaining a warrant from the court to seize the radio equipment. The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for executing the warrant and seizing the pirate radio station equipment, with FCC personnel providing technical assistance during the seizure.

The Boston, Miami and New York areas have particularly heavy concentration of illegal radio activities, the FCC has said. It recently released a map showing law enforcement actions against alleged pirate operators across the country.

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