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FCC Levies $400K Fine for NYPD Radio Frequency Hijack

WASHINGTON– The Federal Communications Commission said it has proposed to fine a New York City resident for apparently operating a radio transmitter on frequencies that the commission has licensed to the New York Police Department, causing interference with the NYPD’s radio system. The individual, Jay Peralta, faces a proposed fine of $404,166 for this egregious conduct.

Peralta allegedly transmitted threatening messages directed at NYPD officers. These messages included false bomb threats and false officer-in-distress calls to NYPD dispatchers. The Commission takes very seriously the unauthorized use of the radio systems used by first responders, as it can cause interference and may significantly harm the public by impairing the ability of legitimate users to communicate.

Today’s Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture is a result of an investigation that began in August 2016 when a commission employee observed a Twitter post about an unlawful intrusion on the NYPD’s radio system. The NYPD provided the FCC with a written statement by Peralta, who is currently in police custody for related charges, in which he apparently acknowledged making nine unauthorized transmissions on the NYPD’s radio system.

The proposed fine details the commission’s allegations of unlawful conduct and proposes the maximum monetary penalty permitted under the law. As with any proposed fine, Peralta has 30 days to respond to this notice. According to his statement to the NYPD, on at least one occasion, Peralta apparently made unauthorized transmissions on the NYPD’s radio system in order to distract officers while his accomplices allegedly committed a robbery.

The FCC is tasked with overseeing use of the nation’s radio frequency spectrum and issues licenses under which entities such as broadcasters, public safety agencies, and wireless phone and data networks operate. The NYPD is a licensed user of multiple radio frequencies in the New York City area.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly approved the NAL. Pai released a separate statement on the action:

“Today, the FCC makes it abundantly clear that it will not tolerate unauthorized and illegal use of the radio spectrum. This may not be a typical pirate radio case in which an unauthorized operator inflicts damage on a radio broadcaster that is operating with a valid FCC license, but it does involve unauthorized interference to critical public safety communications systems.

“Jay Peralta deliberately disregarded the cCommission’s rules and the safety and security of New York City Police Department officers and the general public when he operated a radio on frequencies licensed to the NYPD without FCC authorization. Mr. Peralta’s nine unauthorized and interfering transmissions involved false bomb threats, false claims of criminal activities involving firearms, false distress calls from purported NYPD officers, and threats against NYPD officers. These transmissions were malicious and egregious actions that could have caused substantial and widespread harm.

“For as long as the FCC has existed, the agency has had the important mission of preventing radio interference. And within the realm of public safety, the FCC has no higher purpose than promoting secure and reliable public safety and emergency response communications. The commission must continue to discharge these critical duties—and vigorous prosecution of the fight against unauthorized operators is an important way to do so.

“I am grateful to my fellow commissioners for agreeing to act swiftly and strongly in this serious matter.”