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New Jersey Pirate Leads Agents on Months-Long Chase

The commission now has proposed a $25,000 fine for his efforts

FCC Enforcement Bureau Region One Regional Director David Dombrowski has issued a notice of apparent liability for forfeiture to Conroy Dawson. The commission has proposed a $25,000 fine for “apparently willfully and repeatedly” for operating an unlicensed radio station on 97.5 MHz in Paterson, N.J.

The Enforcement Bureau reached this conclusion after issuing three Notices of Unlicensed Operation to Dawson since 2015. He also received a verbal warning from an agent of the New York field office that operation of this unlicensed station was illegal. Dawson continued to operate his illegal station and established a pattern of relocating his unlicensed FM after the New York office issued the NOUOs, the FCC said.

On Oct. 17, 2015 the commission received a complaint from the licensee of an FM translator station located in Jersey City, N.J., alleging that an unauthorized station was causing co-channel interference on 97.5 MHz. On Nov. 17, 2015, two agents used direction-finding techniques to trace the source of the interfering signal on 97.5 MHz to a residential building in Paterson, N.J. The agents observed an FM broadcast antenna mounted on the roof and recorded a portion of the station’s audio stream, during which the announcer identified the station as “Big Link Radio” and announced a telephone number that listeners could use to reach the station. The agents took field strength measurements of the station’s signal and determined that the transmissions on 97.5 MHz exceeded the limits for operation under Part 15, and therefore required a license.

The agents confirmed that the commission had not authorized an FM station to operate on 97.5 MHz at or near the site. The agents consulted property tax records and, after identifying Mantari Investments LLC as the owner, issued to a Notice of Unlicensed Operation, dated Dec. 2, 2015, which informed Mantari that an unlicensed radio station was operating and warned it that continued unlicensed operations could result in additional enforcement action. On Jan. 20, 2016, agents confirmed that the pirate station was no longer operating from the first site.

However, on May 9, 2016, the commission received a complaint that an unlicensed station, identifying itself as WBLR, was operating on 97.5 MHz in Paterson, N.J. The next day, an agent traced the source of the signal to the first site and recorded audio in which the announcer identified the station as “WBLR — Big Link Radio 97.5 FM.” Additionally, field measurements determined that the transmissions on 97.5 MHz exceeded the limits for operation under Part 15 and required a license, which the operator did not have.

Eight days later, the agent returned and went to the building’s roof, where the agent observed an FM broadcast antenna with coaxial cable that ran to an apartment. Building maintenance personnel confirmed that a radio station operated from the apartment, and another tenant confirmed that Dawson and a relative lived there and operated a radio station from that location. On May 23, 2016, the New York Office sent Dawson a NOUO, and the New York office also sent Mantari a second NOUO.

A Mantari representative responded May 31 and informed the New York office that the company had requested that Dawson remove the antenna, but he claimed to have a license to operate the station.

Dawson himself called the office on June 1 and spoke with an agent, who advised Dawson that he needed a license to operate an FM broadcast station on 97.5 MHz in Paterson, N.J., and continued unlicensed operations could result in additional enforcement actions. Dawson said that the he had applied for a license to operate the station but gave no other information. He agreed to remove the transmission equipment from the apartment, while Mantari removed the antenna from the roof.

A third complaint was filed with the New York office on July 6, which was investigated Aug. 2. An agent traced the source of the interfering signal to a different residential building in Paterson, where an antenna was mounted on the roof. The agent also recorded the station ID as “WBLR — Big Link Radio” and a call-in number. Measurements again confirmed that the transmissions exceeded the limits under Part 15, so the agent posted a NUOU on the door.

A week later, the agent returned and observed that the unlicensed station remained on the air and that an FM broadcast antenna was still present on the building’s roof. However, the agent concluded that the unlicensed station was no longer operating from the second site, but before the agent was able to establish the precise location, the station was taken off the air. While the station was on the air, the agent recorded the audio, when the announcer identified the station.

On Aug.17, the agent returned again and observed that the antenna remained but that the unlicensed station was operating from a different location. This time, the agent traced the source of the transmissions to a single family home in Paterson, where the agent saw an FM broadcast antenna mounted in a tree. The station ID was also recorded as “WBLR — Big Link Radio,” and field strength measurements determined that the transmissions exceeded the limits.

The Enforcement Bureau proposes an aggregate base forfeiture of $20,000 for the apparent violations of Section 301 of the act, and also concluded that an upward adjustment of $5,000 is warranted, based on the repeated nature of Dawson’s apparent violations of Section 301 of the act; Section 503(b)(2)(D) of the act authorizes a forfeiture up to $18,936 for each day of a continuing violation, up to $142,021 for a single act or failure to act

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