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Prison Pirate Fined $25,000

Interfering with communications in a jail “particularly egregious” says FCC

Normally we see pirate fines coming out of the FCC for people operating unauthorized transmission equipment who interfere with licensed radio stations.

This case concerns someone who the FCC says interfered with communications in a prison.

The commission found Terry VanVolkenburg of Cocoa, Fla. apparently liable for a $25,000 fine for operating a radio transmitter without a license on 465.300 MHz and interfering with the Brevard County Sheriff’s wireless radio communications in the county jail in Sharpes, Fla.

The Sheriff’s Department recorded the interference. The recordings suggest, according to the FCC, that a man “transmitted vulgar language, sound effects, previously recorded prison communications and threats to prison officials” multiple times in September and October 2012. The FCC said the individual threatened to take over the jail and shoot a deputy. He was warned to stop.

FCC agents from the Tampa office of the Enforcement Bureau tracked the transmissions to a residence in Cocoa. At first, VanVolkenburg showed agents an amateur radio that couldn’t have transmitted on 465.300 MHz, which is a public safety frequency. However he eventually produced an Alinco DJ-C5 portable radio transceiver that could, according to the commission.

The FCC said in its decision VanVolkenburg told them he chose 465.300 MHz “because the prison’s transmissions on that frequency were strong; that he was only using 300 milliwatts and did not think that he ‘could talk over anyone and therefore wasn’t interfering with anyone;’ and that the interference would not happen again.”

Officials say VanVolkenburg interfered with the prison communications systems for a period of 14 days, continuing to do so after being told to stop.

Calling his conduct “particularly egregious,” the commission raised the fine from the base of $17,000 to $25,000. He has 30 days to appeal or pay.