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US seizes gear of radio station

Authorities have seized equipment reportedly used by a pirate radio station in Brockton that interfered with air traffic communications in the Boston area while playing Haitian ­music, according to officials and records in federal court.

The equipment was confiscated by the US Marshals Service, which executed a warrant March 1 at 9 Rutland St., accord­ing to a legal filing.

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Calls to a number listed for Margareth Pamphile, the woman identified in court papers as a resident of the multifamily home who received prior warnings about the station, were not returned Tuesday.

Pamphile has not been charged with any crimes, and it was not immediately clear if she or anyone else will be subject to a fine. Fines in similar cases start at $10,000 and run as high as $25,000, officials said.

According to an affidavit filed in January by Emmanuel Domkam, an electronics engineer with the Federal Communications Commission, officials began investigating the un­licensed station, broadcasting on 91.7 FM in Brockton, in February 2010.

The station’s transmitter has moved three times since then before it ended up on Rutland Street, Domkam wrote.

“Each time, the move ­occurred after we issued/posted a written warning at the transmitter location,” he wrote.

Investigators traced the transmitter to Rutland Street after the Federal Aviation Admin­istration reported in ­October that a possible un­licensed station, later identified as 91.7, was interfering with a frequency it uses to speak with pilots flying in the Boston area, the affidavit stated.

Despite repeated warnings issued to Pamphile, her nephew, Gregory Pamphile, and other residents at 9 Rutland, the station continued to broadcast from there, and a judge signed off in January on a warrant to seize the radio equipment, ­records show.

“Unlicensed broadcasting threatens the integrity of the regulatory structure established by [federal law] to prevent chaos in the radio spectrum,” Domkam wrote.

Officials at several agencies could not say Tuesday whether the reported interference to air communications had caused any serious problems at Logan International Airport or elsewhere.

The FCC said on Tuesday the investigation was a top priority because such interference could be dangerous.

It is an issue that has come up in Brockton before. In 2007, a pirate radio broadcast was cited by federal authorities for inter­fering with traffic control airwaves at Logan, the Globe reported the following year. The equipment was seized.

While officials located the equipment used to broadcast on 91.7 in the current case, much about the programming remains a mystery, according to Domkam.

“We do not know the location of the studio where the station’s programming is produced, and we have not been able to determine the individual responsible for the station’s operation,” he wrote in the affidavit. In effect, authorities do not know the studio’s location but they do know that its content was being broadcast from 9 Rutland St.

The Enforcement Bureau of the FCC shut down 96 pirate operations across the country in fiscal 2012, a spokesman said. In a posting on its website, the FCC said “the operation of these unlicensed broadcast stations can cause interference to other licensed broadcasters, nonbroadcast services, and in some circumstances can even endanger public safety.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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