Ted Tatum's not a spy or the head of a criminal organization. He just runs South Hill RV in Puyallup.
"We're a family business. I have kids, I have a wife. I have a lot of people counting on me,” he said.
But that didn't keep an agent with enforcement bureau of the Federal Communications Commission from threatening Ted with a $100,000 fine and a year in jail for his burglar alarm.
“I’m feeling like I’m getting picked on, is what it's feeling like, by the big guy," Tatum said.
See, Ted's had the same burglar alarm for 14 years. But somehow it was sending a radio signal that interfered with this Verizon cell tower, says spokesman Scott Charlston.
“So we pinpointed the problem in the alarm equipment at South Hill RV. And that was what was causing deterioration of voice calls in our network. And so we were serious about taking some immediate action,” Charlston said.
Verizon spoke with South Hill RV and Ted's alarm company, My Alarm Center. They were told fix it or shut it down.
Tatum said that’s not an option, “I have over three to five million dollars in inventory any given week in RVs here. So we have to have an alarm system. Like I told the FCC officer I cannot turn my alarm system off. That is just not an option for me.”
Ted says My Alarm Center inspected the box and couldn't find anything wrong. Then 12 days after Verizon's call, the Tatum's got a visit from the federal agent.
“Of course my heart sinks but I live a pretty clean life so I’m thinking, OK, maybe they're looking at a trailer, wants a special deal or something,” Tatum said.
I tried to get answers. I drove to a non-descript building on the eastside and found the FCC's field office, but no one answered.
My next stop was to Verizon who said the notice wasn't meant for Ted.
“The warning was directly to my alarm center. Now exactly how it would have been posed to the FCC, I have no idea," said Charleston.
After a call to the FCC, and a few more tweaks from My Alarm Center, I was able to inform Mr. Tatum that the situation was fixed.
The problem, no one told him that!
Now fully wired with the truth, he's just glad the whole situation is over.
“To pick on a small family RV dealership makes no sense to me. I just don't understand,” Tatum said.