Pirate Enforcement Actions Continue on Both Coasts

FCC takes enforcement steps in California and the Bronx
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Call it the circle of life, pirate style. For one alleged pirate operator, his run-in with the Enforcement Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission has come to an expensive end. For another, the process is just beginning.

On the West Coast, the Enforcement Bureau nixed a request by Nelson Quintanilla of Panorama City, Calif., who was seeking reconsideration of a $25,000 fine for allegedly operating an unlicensed FM broadcast station in this suburb of Los Angeles.

After its Notice of Apparent Liability went unanswered, the FCC laid down the fine in a formal Forfeiture Order. Quintanilla responded to that order by filing an affidavit that said he is not the actual owner of the transmission equipment. That individual is no longer in the United States. In addition, Quintanilla himself has a limited income and cannot cover the cost of the fine, he said.

But according to the commission, that’s not enough to overturn the fine. As a start, reconsideration is appropriate only when one can show that the initial order contained an error, or if new mitigating facts are raised. In this case, Quintanilla did not contest the bureau’s original findings — that he was operating an unlicensed radio station. In addition, the commission said, Quintanilla would need to provide specific documentation to request a decrease in a fine, such as a federal tax return for the last three years. Quintanilla merely stated his annual income and provided an IRS Form 1099-MISC, which represents a small fraction of his income, the FCC said.

And lastly, Quintanilla’s assertions about the ownership of the transmission equipment are irrelevant to his operation of that same equipment (emphasis the FCC’s own).

It also didn’t help his cause that Quintanilla responded to the commission only on receipt of the second forfeiture order — not to the original Notice of Apparent Liability. As such, the bureau gave Quintanilla 30 days to pay the $25,000.

While the story has wrapped up for Quintanilla, it’s just beginning for Rubena Hemmings. The New York Enforcement Bureau knocked on the proverbial door of Hemmings after receiving information that an unlicensed broadcast radio station on 102.5 MHz has been operating in the Bronx.

On May 11, Hemmings received warning that unlicensed operation of this station must be discontinued immediately. Using direction-finding techniques, field agents found that radio signals were emanating from her property at a field strength of 256,299 µV/m at 3 meters, which exceeds the max level of 250 µV/m at 3 meters for nonlicensed devices. With no license on record to operate, Hemmings has been ordered to shut down.

Hemmings next steps remain to be seen.

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