The Federal Communications Commission has fined a Bay Shore man $25,000 for repeatedly jamming an emergency radio frequency used by Melville firefighters with "chanting and heavy breathing."
The fine against Drew Buckley, 53, was heavier than usual for unauthorized transmissions because his "willful and malicious" tampering showed a "deliberate disregard for public safety," according to an FCC notice issued Thursday.
Buckley, who has 30 days to appeal, was arrested by Suffolk police last Nov. 30 after FCC investigators heard the transmissions Nov. 2-6 and traced them to his home, the agency said.
He was charged in county court with second-degree obstruction of governmental administration, which carries up to a year in jail. That case is pending.
Michael Carrieri, the Melville fire chief at the time, said he was happy with the fine.
"That money is a deterrent amount," he said. "It sends the message you can't do this."
The interference "gibberish" increased over eight months starting in March 2013 until it became a daily occurrence, he said.
Firefighters had to repeat themselves to be heard, and volunteers sometimes turned off their radios to avoid hearing the interference, Carrieri said.
Buckley's attorney, Daniel Driscoll of Bay Shore, said the fine will be a "tough pill" for his client, an electrician and ham radio buff.
The case spurred Reps. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Peter King (R-Seaford) to introduce a bill to toughen penalties for people who jam first responders' frequencies. They want sentences of up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.