Nighttime Moonshine Operation Gets Howard Teenager Arrested

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 7, 2005

In a midnight stakeout, government agents seized a Howard County teenager and the illicit moonshine distillery he allegedly built from a bucket, a trash can and some copper pipe in the woods near his home.

The boy, arrested early Tuesday at the Rocky Gorge Reservoir in the Fulton area, told investigators he'd learned the essentials of bootlegging in high-school science class and on the Internet. Agents withheld his identity because he is a minor. They would not give his age.

"It's amazing what you can learn on the Internet," said Kevin P. Kane, spokesman for Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, whose agency regulates the production of spirits.

It was the first illicit distillery seized in Maryland since 2000, something of a curiosity for the agents involved. Moonshining is a misdemeanor offense in Maryland, potentially punishable with a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.

"After 28 years, I can honestly say it's the first one I've run into," said George Hubbard of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which joined the comptroller's office on the case.

A woman walking her dogs at the reservoir spotted the fermentation equipment and reported it to authorities, Kane said. Agents staked out the site until the owner arrived, just after midnight. Agents closed in.

The boy was attempting to distill whiskey from corn, Kane said, in a trash can heated by propane. Agents believe he was just getting started and hadn't yet sampled the brew.

"What he was making, it wasn't really consumable at all," Kane said. "It was actually very toxic."

Kane said the juvenile court system will handle the case. The boy also faces the wrath of his parents, who knew nothing of his nocturnal activities.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company