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FCC Upholds $4000 Fine to Pennsylvania Amateur

05/16/2011

The FCC announced that on May 16, it issued a Forfeiture Order of $4000 to Jose Torres, N3TX, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “for willfully and repeatedly operating his amateur station on an unauthorized frequency at his residence, in violation of Section 1.903(a) of the Commission’s Rules.” This action follows a 2009 Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) against Torres.

In 2009, the FCC issued an NAL against Torres, after receiving a complaint of interference in 2008. Agents in the Enforcement Bureau’s Philadelphia Office used mobile direction finding equipment in April and June of that year to determine the source of interference. Both times, they found that the source was coming from Torres’ residence and that the interference consisted of unauthorized radio transmissions on 26.71 MHz.

In December 2007, Torres was previously was warned about not operating on 26.71 MHz. He received a Notice of Violation for operating on this unauthorized frequency from his residence, in violation of Section 1.903(a) of the Rules. In response to the Notice of Violation, Torres admitted to operating on the unauthorized frequency of 26.71 MHz. The Notice of Violation also included a violation for failure to transmit a call sign identification, a violation of Section 97.119(a) of the Rules. During the 2007 investigation, agents inspected Torres’s station and obtained audio recordings of the unauthorized transmissions. In a written statement to the FCC, Torres said that he agreed with the Notice of Violation and that he fully understood it: “According to my license N3TX, I will transmit where I’m authorized, at the Extra Class portion only.”

Torres met with agents in the Philadelphia Office in February 2009 to respond to the findings in the NAL. During the meeting, Torres claimed that he was not at home during the alleged unauthorized operations in April and June 2008; he submitted cell phone records in support of this claim. Torres also submitted his most recent three years of federal tax returns to support his request for a reduction based on an inability to pay the $4000 forfeiture.

According to the FCC, Torres requested the meeting “based on an alleged language barrier and his inability to properly refute in writing the findings in the NAL. Two FCC agents and the Philadelphia Office’s Spanish-speaking Office Assistant were present during the meeting. Torres’ statements were recorded with his consent.”

In its Forfeiture Order, the FCC stated that it found “no merit” to Torres’ claim that he was not at home when the unauthorized transmissions took place. “The cell phone records Torres submitted are evidence of nothing more than the fact that he was using his cell phone and not the landline phone located in his home,” the FCC said. “It does not prove that he was not at home at the time of the unauthorized transmissions. During his interview with agents at the Philadelphia Office on February 17, 2009, Torres provided no other information or documentation to support his claim that he was not at home at the time of the unauthorized transmissions. At no time does Torres claim or provide evidence that someone else in his house was responsible for the unauthorized transmissions. We therefore find that cancellation of the forfeiture on this basis is not warranted.”

The FCC also declined to reduce the amount of the forfeiture, based on Torres’ claim that was unable to pay it: “In support of his request, Torres submitted three years of individual tax returns. With regard to an individual’s or entity’s inability to pay, the Commission has determined that, in general, gross revenues are the best indicator of an ability to pay a forfeiture. We have reviewed Torres’ documentation and conclude that a reduction of the forfeiture is not warranted.”

Torres has until June 15, 2011 to pay the $4000 forfeiture. If he does not pay the forfeiture within the period specified, the FCC may refer the case to the Department of Justice for collection, pursuant to Section 504(a) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.



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