Local News

Another Moonshine Bust in Johnston County

Posted January 23, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— In the latest of a string of moonshine busts, State agents have found another still in Johnston County, this one located under a swamp.

The latest liquid loot came from a secluded area just a few miles from Benson. After an anonymous tip, Alcohol Law Enforcement agents went in and found what they were looking for. Agent Bill Newsome says this was a major bootleg operation.

At that rate, the suspect Billy Ray Wood was allegedly cheating tax payers out of thousands of dollars. Agents say he didn't pay the $25-per-gallon tax required by the government.

Benson resident Jonathan Wiggins says many in rural Johnston County say running moonshine is more of a family tradition than a crime.

Benson resident Matthew McLamb agrees. He says people have been getting away with it for years.

But ALE agents say they may be gaining on the age-old business of bootlegging. They've shut down more than a dozen stills since early December. Their biggest battle now, according to Newsome, is getting more teeth added to the charges. Each of the recent busts led only to misdemeanor charges.

Newsome says the suspect in this case could face a maximum of 10 years in jail, though agents don't expect him to get anything close to that. He says it is not simply an issue of right or wrong. Illegal stills pose a health issue as well. For example, this particular suspect was making his mash with swamp water and his mash contained lead and other contaminants.