11/20/97 -- 1:34 AM
Feds shut down pirate radio stations
By DEAN SOLOV of The Tampa Tribune
TEMPLE TERRACE - Federal agents pulled the plug on three area pirate
radio stations Wednesday, arrested a Lutz man and seized thousands of
dollars of equipment.
A radio executive at a licensed station praised the raids but
expressed doubt the renegade stations would be silenced for good.
Investigators descended on unlicensed radio operators at dawn and
confiscated broadcasting equipment.
Arthur Kobres, 53, of Lutz was charged in a 14-count federal
indictment with operating a radio without a license. He was released
at an afternoon hearing on $25,000 security bond.
Kobres has been operating Lutz Community Radio, 96.7 on the FM dial,
where he broadcast anti-government material. Federal prosecutors have
said Kobres and his wife, Cheryl, were unindicted co-conspirators in
the recent federal trial of Emilio Ippolito and the renegade
Constitutional Common Law Court.
Wednesday marked Kobres' second go-around with the Federal
Communications Commission. Agents confiscated his equipment March 7,
1996. He managed to be back on the air the next day.
Agents also hit 102.1, ``The Party Pirate'' in Temple Terrace, and
87.9, ``87X'' in Seminole Heights on Wednesday. Authorities wouldn't
say if other unlicensed radio stations in the Tampa Bay area would be
Kelly Benjamin, 22, who operates 87X using the name Kelly Kombat, was
arrested on state charges of possessing marijuana and drug
paraphernalia, which federal agents said they found during the
seizure. Benjamin was released hours later on $1,000 bond.
Doug Brewer, who operates The Party Pirate from his home, watched
alongside other station disc jockeys as U.S. marshals rolled
electronic equipment into a Ryder truck parked in his driveway.
``We knew it was eventually going to happen,'' said Rob Elting, known
as Bonehead on the air.
Brewer, 43, said he was awakened at 6:30 a.m. by armed U.S. marshals,
who handcuffed him. Agents seized equipment from his home studio and
gear from his remote van, he said. They also dismantled a 150-foot
radio tower. Some of the equipment taken, he said, belonged to other
groups, like the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club.
``There will be repercussions about it,'' Brewer said. ``Not only
that, the community will be in an uproar about it because they're
losing their favorite radio stations.''
Brewer argued that while the FCC requires broadcasters to have a
license to operate, they only grant them to big-monied corporations.
Brewer said he applied for a broadcast license but was turned down.
Known to listeners as Craven Moorehead, Brewer has taunted FCC
officials on and off the air. He refused to pay a $1,000 FCC fine. His
Web page includes a photograph of agents outside his house measuring
the radio signal.
Ralph Barlow, who heads the FCC office in Tampa, would not comment as
he supervised the seizure at Brewer's home. In an article about Brewer
in The Wall Street Journal last month, Barlow was quoted as saying,
``Sooner or later, I'll nail him.''
Proponents of pirate radio say the stations offer diverse opinions and
entertainment, whereas corporate media offer sanitized, boring fare.
Opponents of unlicensed broadcast counter that unregulated stations
are a menace that often interfere with licensed operations and poison
the airwaves with profanity and hate speech.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Monte Richardson would not say why Kobres was
the only suspect charged with operating an unlicensed radio station.
However, he added that Kobres' return to the airwaves last year after
his broadcast equipment was seized may have been a factor. The content
of Kobres' broadcasts played no role, Richardson said.
It's rare for a pirate station operator to face criminal charges, said
Louis Hiken, a San Francisco lawyer representing Free Radio Berkeley
operator Stephen Dunifer in a case pirate broadcasters are closely
The FCC has beefed up enforcement over the past several months at the
behest of the National Association of Broadcasters, pirate radio
Drew Rashbaum, vice president and general manager of five radio
stations, including WHPT, 102.5 FM, lauded the seizures. Rashbaum
filed a complaint against The Party Pirate about a year ago, claiming
its proximity to WHPT on the dial was confusing listeners.
``We're pleased that this is finally occurring,'' Rashbaum said.
``It's taken awhile, but true to their word, the FCC did indeed shut
down these unlicensed psuedo-broadcasters.''
``To some degree, it makes the airwaves safer to listen to,'' he said.
``There's much less chance of unmonitored profanity and subject
But Rashbaum doubts the seizures will close the matter. ``We'd like
think that they're off for good, but I wouldn't count on it,'' he
Asked whether The Party Pirate will return to the airwaves, Brewer
said: ``Stay tuned.''