Moonshine is back in Virginia's hills

March 27, 2011 at 4:57 PM
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ROANOKE, Va., March 27 (UPI) -- Moonshine is making a comeback in southwestern Virginia's Blue Ridge, authorities say.

State Alcoholic Beverage Control agents have seized five illegal distilleries in Franklin County in March alone, The Roanoke (Va.) Times reports.

Chris Goodman, resident agent in charge of Roanoke office, said investigations are expanding.

"The general feeling is that the moonshine trade, if you want to call it that, is re-emerging," said Goodman. He said the poor economy is a likely factor.

In the fiscal year ending in June 2010, ABC agents investigated 22 stills, the most since the federal Operation Lightning Strike in 1999 led to 29 convictions.

The agency's Illegal Whiskey Unit was closed down in 2009 when several agents retired and the state cut funding for their jobs.

"Obviously we'd like to have more personnel," Goodman said. "We do what we can with what we have."

The Internet has become a tool for investigators. Agents seized three stills in Henry County March 9 after buying a new still on eBay, going to a house to pick it up and finding two more stills there, said ABC spokesman Philip Bogenberger.

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