Illegal winery busted at Alabama town's sewage plant

·1 min read

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — Sheriff’s officials say they've busted an illegal winery that was operating at a municipal sewage plant in a small north Alabama town.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement it received an anonymous tip about an alcohol operation at a municipal building in the town of Rainsville on Thursday. Investigators then uncovered what’s described as a large illegal winery inside the Rainsville Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Photos released by investigators show glass containers, buckets, a fermenting rack and other equipment often used by people who make wine at home.

The agency says officers seized a lot of illegal alcohol and arrested Allen Maurice Stiefel, 62, of Fyffe. He faces a felony charge of use of official position for personal gain and a misdemeanour charge of unlawful possession of an illegally manufactured alcoholic beverage.

Rainsville Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt said Stiefel has been suspended without pay, according to WHNT-TV. Stiefel has been a city employee for 15 years, the mayor said.

“I want to thank the mayor for his co-operation 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.”

The town of about 5,100 people is 100 miles (160 kilometres ) northeast of Birmingham.

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.

The Associated Press