Teen charged with brewing moonshine

The Howard County 16-year-old tells authorities he found instructions online

October 08, 2005|By MELISSA HARRIS | MELISSA HARRIS,SUN REPORTER

State officials have arrested a Howard County teenager who they say was brewing illegal moonshine in a wooded area near his home in a homemade still built from a propane-heated metal trash can filled with corn mash.

The 16-year-old had made about two teaspoons of whiskey before he was caught during a Tuesday night stakeout in the Rocky Gorge Reservoir near Fulton, said a spokesman for state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

The copper tubes were untarnished, so it appeared to have been the still's first use, authorities said.

"When it comes to whiskey, the alcohol content alone creates health issues, and it needs to be regulated," said Kevin P. Kane of the comptroller's office, which enforces tax laws, including liquor tax evasion. "What he was concocting was very toxic and potentially lethal."

The boy, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, told authorities that he had distilled chemicals in his high school science class and found information on the Internet about using the process to brew alcohol. He was charged as a juvenile with moonshining, a misdemeanor. The still was confiscated.

"Of course he was scared," Kane said. We had to wake his father up at 2 a.m. and tell him that his son had sneaked out and was making moonshine," Kane said. "His parents had no idea."

Kane said that a woman walking her two dogs in the woods spotted the still and called authorities.

It has been five years since such an operation has been shut down in Maryland.

The boy had attached a propane tank to a burner on which rested a camouflaged metal trash can with the lid on it. Gases from the heated mash escaped through a copper tube, which poked out of the trash can lid, wound through an ice-filled bucket and came out at the other end.

The ice turned the gas into liquid, which trickled out the copper tube into a Mason jar.

"This is an intelligent individual," Kane said.

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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