The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office in Alabama has busted up an illegal wine distillery that was run out of a city sewage plant, calling it "one of the biggest operations we've seen in our county and possibly our state."
What are the details?
The sheriff's office announced Thursday that following an anonymous tip "investigators and narcotics unit agents uncovered a large illegal winery at the Rainsville Waste Water Treatment Plant," a facility owned by the City of Rainsville. The news release said they found "a large amount of alcohol, and a winery which appeared to be in operation for a long period of time."
Rainsville Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt was present at the plant, which employs four people, when authorities conducted their search, AL.com reported.
"I want to thank the mayor for his cooperation and willingness to allow law enforcement to do our job and shut something like this down," Sheriff Nick Welden said in a statement. "This is definitely one of the biggest operations we've seen in our county and possibly our state. A big thanks to the public and their tips against ALL illegal activities."
He added, "Once again, it doesn't matter who you are, no one is above the law. We won't tolerate anyone using their position to hide their illegal actions at the taxpayer's expense."
Lingerfelt held a news conference Friday to discuss the bust, where he told reporters that an employee of 15 years had been suspended without pay as the sheriff's department continues its investigation. He did not disclose the name of the employee.
Who was arrested?
Later that day, DCSO provided an update, and announced the arrest of Allen Stiefel, 62, in connection with the illegal winery operation. Stiefel has been charged with a Class B felony for use of official position for personal gain, and with a misdemeanor for unlawful possession of an illegally manufactured alcoholic beverage.
ABC News reported:
It's legal to make limited amounts of wine at home in Alabama, but it's illegal to have more than 15 gallons of homemade wine or beer at a time. Police photos show multiple fermenting vessels filled with what appears to be more than 100 gallons of white and red liquid.